By Dave Denniston
Emergency Services Insurance Program
As we move into hurricane season over a good portion of our country, emergency responders must keep in mind that you are also vulnerable to the destructive forces of Mother Nature. As such precautions need to be taken to protect yourselves and your equipment against these storms. If you don’t, the devastation and tragic results could become even worse. These tips are valid for all types of storms, so even if your response area is well away from the coast, you could face similar exposures, so please remember the following tips:
Before the storm:
1. Set up and use an Incident Command System for the entire event
2. Remove or secure articles that are out doors
3. Stock up on non perishable foods; plan a way to heat them without power
4. Check all portable equipment including chain saws, generators and pumps; make sure you have a supply of
spare chains, filters, proper fittings, extra hose etc.
5. Check for adequate fuel supply, oil etc.
6. Check and charge all portable radio and pager batteries
7. Fill coolers with ice
8. Stock up on bottled water
9. Store several sets of clean dry clothing
10. Complete apparatus and equipment inventory and checks
11. Raise anything that should not get wet up to the highest level possible
12. Turn propane tanks off if possible
13. If station is in a known floodplain, move everything possible to higher ground
14. Grease drivelines and wheel bearings on trucks
During the storm:
1. Remain in quarters until the storm passes, you cannot help anyone if you get caught in the storm
2. Map the path of the storm through your area and preplan possible response and alternate routes if main travel is blocked
3. Allocate resources, realizing you may not be able to help everyone at once
4. Build a situation and resource tracking board for accountability when you are able to respond
5. Get any rest possible, have responders fed and well hydrated before they respond
6. Save portable radio and cell phone battery life for when you will need it
As you respond:
1. Accountability and safety are the number one concern
2. Remain hydrated
3. Slow down vehicle response due to wet roads and unusual situations
4. Watch for low hanging wires and branches or wires that are on the ground
5. Watch for weak branches or structures that may come down
6. Watch for foreign objects that may cause damage if run over
7. Remember the road may be washed away under standing water
8. Realize that even calm looking water can have strong currents
9. Schedule and rotate crews. Keep a standby crew ready to respond to true emergencies
10. Track portable equipment
11. Use ICS planning officer to plan for relief crews, meals and to ensure all responders remain hydrated
12. Expect the unexpected, even everyday simple tasks become difficult without power
13. Have all crews report their status in on a regular basis.
14. Plan for direct communication; remember cell phone and repeater towers may go down in the storm.
15. Maintain portable equipment including oil changes, filters etc.
16. Check CO levels and keep station ventilated
17. Have responders watch each other’s back and stay alert
18. Have a “mayday” plan and response ready to assist crews that get in trouble
19. Track and report all damage as soon as possible
20. Each and every responder and officer must keep a complete situational awareness and look at the big picture. Hurricane response is way out side of our normal response and can tax even the best responders and departments.
Good luck and Stay Safe!