Operational lessons learned in disaster response

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Operational Lessons Learned in Disaster Response Disaster and major incidents demand effective coordination among fire and police personnel. Traffic control, curfews and limits on access to damaged areas all affect fire department operations and require close cooperation with law enforcement. Some disasters may spawn lawlessness in the form of looting and arson, which can place unarmed fire and EMS personnel at risk. Plans should spell out how fire and police will communicate and when law enforcement needs to indicate an “all-clear” before fire depart- ment members respond at a scene. If the disaster is large enough or local governments request such assistance, the governor of the state declares that a state of emergency exists and mobilizes the National Guard. The National Guard, law en- forcement, and highway department may have various overlapping duties and capabilities. The National Guard can assist with traffic control and security needs while also assisting with tasks like debris removal. Some National Guard units may assist with other challenges, such as providing shelter with tents, or oth- er assistance. The National Guard will need a liaison in the EOC to coordinate support for local officials. The highway or public works departments and the National Guard may be able to help fire departments get to and from the scene of an emergency. This may require the use of heavy equipment to clear the streets of debris or other hazards, such as snow and ice. These agencies and the National Guard will have four-wheel- drive vehicles, which can be used to gain access to various types of emergencies. For example, EMS patients in places that are not accessible to regular vehicles can be picked up by four-wheel-drive vehicles and taken to regular EMS transport vehicles. These same agencies also may have small boats for the same purpose. If there is a U.S. Coast Guard presence in the region, the fire department should develop disaster re- sponse plans with them. If not, contingency planning for flooding should include swift (moving) water and other waterborne operations. The U.S. Coast Guard possesses various resources to support these kinds of operations. Aircraft may be another resource for use in the movement of patients or in other operations. Some law enforcement agencies have this capability, as do the National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard. If a local transit system has buses, they may be pressed into service for the movement of personnel, as mentioned above, or used in the evacuation of civilians and for medical transportation. There also may be National Guard or public school transportation resources available for this purpose. Providing EMS care for people in emergency shelters will be a factor in disaster response. In many, but not all communities, agencies such as the Salvation Army or American Red Cross are the responsible organizations for shelter management. They may provide a nurse for medical support. The American

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