The majority of people who work in the fire service do it because they love the job they do. Psychological profiles of those in the fire service, among many other attributes, show an individual who has an overwhelming desire to help another person in distress. Another trait of those who work in...
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I think many of us were biting at the bit to go. There is a sense of helplessness when so many civilians and members of the fire service are in desperate need of assistance. Most people I know in the fire service would move a mountain if it meant helping someone else, especially someone in the fire service. This is the nature of our mindset.
How do you control this mass response? You can try and control it at the front end by keeping them from leaving, but still many will respond. The answer is the Incident Management System (IMS). The IMS is an off-shoot of the FIRESCOPE (Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies) project, developed after the tragic 1970 wildland fires in southern California in which 500,000 acres burned and 700 homes were lost.
Frank Schaper, a deputy chief with whom I worked in the St. Louis Fire Department and who is now the fire chief in St. Charles, MO, is a strong proponent of the Incident Management System. His solution for these unsolicited responses would be to establish a staging area that he calls “Maverick Staging.” All volunteers, not only firefighters, but nurses, doctors, construction workers, food vendors, etc., would be put into a staging area called “Maverick.” These volunteers would be managed by a team from the fire service called RIM (Resource Incident Management). The RIM team’s main responsibility would be to coordinate, organize and manage the resources in the “Maverick” staging area and deploy them when requested.
The voluntary response of thousands in the fire service to New York is best summed up by Chief Buckman in his IAFC press release: “Admiration, courage, compassion and respect – these are some of the words used to describe the individuals who put themselves at risk to save others. Blessedly, they are human and are vulnerable to the pain and suffering of those they serve. I urge each of you to take care of each other. I urge each of you to remain calm, take care of your community’s needs during these times. If and when assistance is needed, you will get the call.”
Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the managing director of The Ludwig Group, LLC, a professional consulting firm specializing in fire and EMS issues. He retired as the chief paramedic of the St. Louis Fire Department after serving the City of St. Louis for 24 years. Ludwig has trained and lectured internationally and nationally on fire-based EMS topics. He can be reached at 314-752-1240 or via www.garyludwig.com.