Hurricane Katrina in 2005 exposed America to a dilemma well known to EMS and community planners: that 40% or more of a locality's responder base may not be available at any one time during the early hours of crisis due to individual responders tending to their own familys' safety and needs. Additionally, 20% of the responder base is typically pulled away from response and containment to manage well-meaning volunteers and triage incoming materials.
During Katrina, over 500 police officers did not report to duty during the early hours of the crisis because they were evacuating their own families, crippling the forces capability to respond to the growing emergency on the ground. Additionally, the response capability of the remaining responder pool was drawn down due by the massive challenge of finding the vulnerable and special needs individuals who were not evacuated in advance. As the crisis unfolded and volunteers and outside resources and materiale started arriving, the responder capability available for response, containment and law & order was drawn down even farther by the need to manage and organize this inflow.
In order for a community to realize the full capability of its responder pool, it would either have to 1) hire 160% of the expected need; or 2) develop alternative ways to support responder families, care for the evacuation of the vulnerable/special needs population and use other resources to manage and triage volunteers and responders. Since most communities are hard pressed to afford their current responder needs, hiring excess is impractical. The goal, therefore, is to put simple but effect plans in place, supported by the private and community sectors, that address these challenges and restore community capability.
During crisis, the community depends upon responders for help to contain the crisis, evacuate citizens, provide emergency care and supplies, and generally protect residents from additional harm. Responders generally live in or near the areas they serve with their families and relatives. Without a community program that cares for and helps responders' families during times of crisis, responders often must tend first to the protection of their families before they can protect the community.
Vulnerable and special needs evacutation and care during a crisis can command as much as 40% of a local communities responder capacity. Using the Virtual Surge Depot to identify, locate and classify relatives, employees or members of companies or organizations that have special needs during crisis, CROs can create a first line of care for those unable to care for themselves. Using a buddy system that assigns a volunteer or employee to a specific individual, the CRO can put a pre-determined transportation and evacuation plan in place that become integrated with the overall community response, thus removing this duty from the responder community and restoring a large percentage of responder capacity to response and containment.
It is estimated that 20% or more of local responder capacity is diverted to manage the influx of volunteers and materiel during a crisis. Using well-trained local volunteers through Citizen Corps councils in programs such as CERT, this percentage can be reduced, allowing more responder capacity for response and containment.
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