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Alabama Tornadoes Require Temporary Search and Rescue Halt for Safety

Alabama Tornadoes Require Temporary Search and Rescue Halt for Safety

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

A particularly deadly series of tornadoes struck the southeastern United States on Sunday. An EF3 tornado killed at least 23 people in Lee County, Alabama. Many other residents remain missing.

Immediately after the tornadoes, search and rescue teams started to look for victims. However, they had to suspend operations because of the dangers they faced.

Halting search and rescue operations is always a difficult decision for first responders. Victims with traumatic injuries need immediate medical attention to ensure their survival, but rescuers must maintain their own personal safety. As with other types of disasters, there are numerous management issues to consider.

After Tornado, First Responders Have Significant Difficulty in Moving All Wounded to Medical Facilities

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an EF3 tornado causes considerable damage, including "roofs torn off frame homes, mobile homes demolished, boxcars overturned; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated; and cars lifted off [the] ground."

A tornado can cause so many injuries in a given area over a short period of time that ambulance crews and other first responders may have significant difficulty reaching, assessing and transporting the wounded to a medical facility.

‘Golden Hour’ Principle Increases Chances of Victim Survival

The Golden Hour is an important principle in emergency medicine. It was the creation of Dr. R Adams Cowley at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. From his personal experiences in post-war Europe and in Baltimore in the 1960s, Dr. Cowley recognized that the sooner trauma patients reach definitive care — particularly if they arrive within 60 minutes of being injured — the better their chances of survival. The Golden Hour is always on the mind of emergency medical technicians, paramedics and emergency room physicians when they think about assessing a patient's trauma injuries.

Alabama and Lee County Emergency Management Agency Will Need to Coordinate Rescue Efforts

The emergency management efforts resulting from this particularly deadly tornado outbreak are extensive. The Lee County Emergency Management Agency and the state of Alabama will need to come together to figure out what specific resources are needed to help mitigate this disaster area.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, History, a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard and a Lifeguard Instructor. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and also serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.