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Emergency Preparation Requires Prior Planning and Logistics

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By Randall Hanifen
Contributor, EDM Digest

Note: This blog post is the first in a series about emergency preparation.

Planning and logistics are the first areas to tackle when first responders prepare to react to an emergency incident such as a natural disaster.

When an incident takes a longer operational period than normal, personnel and equipment at the scene will require care. This is the responsibility of the logistics section through the services and support branch. However, in the initial operational phase, much of this work is handled by one person.

Think About Basic Emergency Personnel Needs

Since the logistics section chief (LSC) can be overwhelmed in the initial operational period, it’s crucial to focus on what will keep the personnel at the scene working. Nourishment is first and foremost.

Going without food for about four hours will prevent personnel from performing their assigned tasks properly. If provisions for water to maintain hydration are not made during the initial response, you are already behind in proper planning.

While resources such as the Red Cross are available for canteens, the LSC should understand the time constraints on the Red Cross to respond, set up and order anything beyond coffee and crackers (i.e. cheeseburgers). Second, the LSC must recognize how much the Red Cross and other volunteer organizations can do and how long they can stay on the scene.

A volunteer organization’s abilities to assist during an incident should be assessed early. Typically, scene personnel rely upon these services and it’s likely that catering and mobile kitchens may not be readily available.

Large-Size Disaster Areas

Restroom facilities are the next priority. While this need seems basic, it becomes a complex issue with large-size disaster areas. It is not practical to pull people off the line and shuttle them for 45 minutes so they can use restrooms. Failure to provide adequate restroom accommodations not only causes personal issues for the responders, but can also lead to legal issues after a disaster event.

Have an advance plan for how many portable restroom facilities will be needed and where they should be located. Beyond just the arrival of the restroom units, what will be done to have them serviced?

If you take care of basic human needs such as food, beverages and restrooms, your emergency personnel will find it easier to keep working until it is time for rest periods. In the next blog post, we will cover equipment needs and a base of operations.

Randall Hanifen Dr. Hanifen serves as a shift commander at a medium-sized suburban fire department in the northern part of the Cincinnati area. Randall is the CEO/principal consultant of an emergency services consulting firm, providing analysis and solutions related to organizational structuring of fire and EMS organizations. He is the chairperson and operations manager for a county technical rescue team. from a state and national perspective, he serves as a taskforce leader for one of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, which responds to presidential declared disasters. From an academic standpoint, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and a doctoral degree in business administration with a specialization in homeland security. He is the associate author of “Disaster Planning and Control” (Penwell, 2009), which provides first responders with guidance through all types of disasters.