Below is a the summary of the article written by Mike Wisko of the Galveston Fire Department that appeared in Fire Engineering Magazine. To read the full article, request a copy from firstname.lastname@example.org or log onto the Fire Service Network and follow this link: http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb/?did=1663769791&sid=1&Fmt=6&clientId=75964&RQT=309&VName=PQD.
In September 2008, Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf of Mexico. This article provides an account of the emergency management efforts around the disaster from the perspective of the Galveston Fire Department in Texas - a brigade whose patch was very hard hit by the hurricane.
The author, a 20-year veteran of the Galveston Fire Department, identifies the following lessons learned and reinforced that should be applied to other disaster situations:
- Preparation is key. Identify the types of disasters prevalent in your region and work out how your normal operations would be affected.
- Incident management can make or break a disaster response. Emergency managers should keep up to date with their training in this area.
- Public education is a must. Educate citizens in your community about why evacuations are ordered, and let them know that if they choose not to follow evacuation instructions, rescue crews may not be able to reach them in the midst of a disaster.
- Don’t abandon safety practices. Although it is sometimes difficult to remain rational under emotional stress, there will come a time during a severe natural event when it is not safe or practical to put personnel in harm’s way.
- Critical incident stress management is a vital area that is often overlooked during the planning phase. Make plans beforehand to have critical incident stress management teams brought in after the event to talk to personnel and their families.
- If you’re bringing in outside personnel like USAR to assist, make sure your personnel understand why and how they will be used after such events. It can sometimes be difficult for people to welcome outsiders into the community to help when disaster strikes.
- Take care of your apparatus and equipment. If you abuse it before and during the event, you will not have it when you need it after the event.
- Training is the final key element. Once your standard operating procedures are in place, you will need to train regularly in these areas. As emergency responders, we take responsibility for protecting our communities, and we must be prepared for worst-case scenarios.
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