Disaster Response: Commanding the Storm – Part 1

ay 20, 2013, is a date many Oklahomans will remember for a long time. While responders in central Oklahoma were gearing up for what would be the third major tornado to hit sections of Moore and south Oklahoma City, many first responders were still...


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Second, it is helpful if station and line supervisors ensure that personnel are “brushed up” on the local wide-area search procedures, standard search markings and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements appropriate for their districts. Search and rescue supplies that are not normally kept on first-response vehicles (i.e., spray paint, search equipment, triage equipment and specialized clothing) should be distributed to stations or, at minimum, adequate supplies kept on hand in command vehicles.

 

Command post needs

Third, if your jurisdiction is not already holding jurisdiction-wide preparedness meetings, a telephone call should be made to the other emergency disciplines in the community, and possibly to mutual aid response partners, to discuss general considerations and/or locations for a unified command post, staging area, evacuee shelter and reunification area in the event of a widespread disaster.

Even though it is possible that an alternate site for these areas may have to be identified after the storm hits, discussing command post needs (such as power and water supplies) in advance can help speed the process for identifying a final workable solution. Even though an organization has access to a mobile command post, that should not eliminate a discussion of the possible use of a fixed facility. This may be the preferred option, since Type I incidents of national significance cannot be efficiently managed by using strictly mobile command vehicles.

Fourth, consider establishing a command structure before an incident occurs. Treating an impending incident like a “planned event” enhances the ability to secure communications with other agencies and increases efficiency at a response. The communications coordinator for the jurisdiction should ensure that caches of portable radios and batteries are charged and ready for distribution, if necessary. Radios can be issued to integrate outside response agencies into the local communications plan.

During the Moore response, emergency responders from many rural jurisdictions arrived at staging with a multitude of “home systems” that were rarely interoperable with the metropolitan system. Having the ability to “clone” a radio or have a cache of radios charged and ready for issue is a welcome addition to the staging area.

Next: Priority 1 – “Survival” n