Disaster Resource Staging

As Incident Commander, one of the most daunting tasks ahead is the management of incoming resources and deployment in accordance with YOUR plan.

Release Date: October 3, 2002


"Washington, DC - The United States Fire Administration (USFA) today urged all fire and emergency services departments not to respond to impacted counties and states affected by Hurricane Lili without being requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities under mutual aid agreements and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)".

In the wake of Hurricane Lili, a subject I wrote about after 9-11 spun back into the scene again. I received an e-mail, as many in the fire service did, asking responders to exercise discipline and remain at home unless "lawfully dispatched".

Having been both a giver and a recipient of disaster resources, as a "lawfully" deployed asset and as an incident commander, I know the scenario all too well. Well-meaning responders will converge upon any disaster, leaving you (the Incident Commander) challenged with managing their actions as well as supporting them during what is already an impossible situation.

"It is critical that fire and emergency departments across the country remain in their jurisdictions until such time as the affected states request assistance," said R. David Paulison, United States Fire Administrator. "State and local mutual aid agreements are in place as is the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and those mechanisms will be used to request and task resources needed in the affected areas.

"Self-dispatching of well-meaning volunteer assistance is not needed and will complicate the response and recovery effort. The nature of first responders is to immediately respond and help their neighbors, however we need to show restraint and respond only when requested."

As Incident Commander, one of the most daunting tasks ahead is the management of incoming resources and deployment in accordance with YOUR plan. Elements of successful resource management require establishing an incident management system, restricting access, and staging resources. Disaster staging includes determining what resources you have available, providing orderly acquisition of those resources and appropriate assignment to implement the incident action plan.

When faced with the potential for disaster, the emergency organization, in cooperation with community leaders, should develop a resource management plan ahead of time to manage the flood of help that is going to arrive. The plan should include:

  • Procedures for requesting resources
  • Identified control and isolation strategies
  • Staging information
  • General assignments for known mutual aid resources and,
  • A decision on what to do with unsolicited external resources.

Organizations charged with emergency response in your community need to, almost immediately after identifying the potential for disaster in your community, plan for the resources coming in from outside your immediate jurisdiction. If your organization/community currently doesn't have internal resources to manage certain facets of the emergency, you are most certainly going to request external resources when you need them. Since that will be the case, the idea is to find out where the nearest regional or state resource is and determine how to notify them. Aside from the obvious benefits, preparing in advance keeps you from being tempted to use rogue teams prior to the real help showing up.

In many communities, there are already established procedures for requesting mutual aid resources, be they through your mutual aid organization or through your local or state Emergency Preparedness group. The Mutual Aid request procedures should be in writing and all players should know their part BEFORE the disaster hits. Any person in your jurisdiction with the potential to be an incident commander (which is everyone in most departments) should be intimate with the details of enacting the plan.

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