Flooding, blizzards, wildfires, high winds, COVID, chemical spills, winter storms, tropical storms, MVAs, and fires… sounds like we’re discussing the ultimate disaster movie. All the above, and more, has occurred in the Empire State over the last few years.
New York State is no different than any other place, in a disaster scenario, people need help; sometimes our local emergency services are overwhelmed, and they need help, too. Multiple casualties, multiple locations, and multiple systems are coming together to assist the sick and injured, help shore up buildings, rescue those who are trapped, and help while folks rebuild their community.
Governor Hochul recently authorized a Statewide EMS Task Force for large-scale incidents to supplement local area resources when needed. This includes manpower, ambulances, fire resources, and other specialized equipment. Commissioners from more than 2-dozen statewide agencies have been brought together to form a Disaster Preparedness Commission to develop a comprehensive emergency management plan.
Preplanning needs to start before the actual disaster. Communities need to remain aware of the growing incidence of local climate change, threat assessments, and other possible incidents. The Commission must provide for periodic briefings, drills, exercises and more to assure that all state personnel with direct responsibilities in the event of a disaster are fully familiar with response and recovery plans, and coordinate with federal, local, and other state personnel.
Emergency response to a disaster (EMS, Fire, etc.) requires immediate coordination, communication, and sufficient manpower. The EMS Task Force will have contracts in place to have readiness and pay for the readiness; mobilization of outside resources would not be in place of local response but would augment their efforts. Since resources will most often be pulled from neighboring jurisdictions, each one may use their personalized communication system and different chains of command; in some cases, assistance may arrive from out-of-state with completely different protocols.
Hopefully each emergency unit has benefitted from NIMS and FEMA courses as well as practice drills and will be able to successfully communicate during the response, rescues, and recovery. (NIMS) provides a common, nationwide approach to enable the whole community to work together to manage all threats and hazards. NIMS applies to all incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity.
A "Regional medical advisory committee" needs to be available to inform responders and help them with hospitals, basic life support, advanced life support, and emergency medical protocols of the geographical area of the emergency incident.
Communication and situational awareness are important aspects of coordination in an emergency. Many response agencies may rely on 2-way radio or cell phones, but what happens WHEN a cell tower goes down, or the dispatch center is affected by the emergency? Back-up systems are vital. Everything from standard WIRED phone lines, 2-way walkie-talkies, CB, or HAM radio, may need to be utilized as backup. The adage “The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing” can prove detrimental during an emergency and put both the victims and responders at greater risk.