Why All Hazard Teams should consider recruiting outside traditional areas.

By

Lieutenant W. Michael Phibbs – Central VA Type 3 All Hazards Incident Management Team

When disaster strikes a community the impact may be felt for days, weeks, or months. The initial damage that causes prolonged physical, and psychological harm to the citizens, can create significant damage to the community’s infrastructure with impacts lasting far beyond Al Hazards Incident Teams typical 14 day deployment. Public safety personnel comprise the majority of members and by definition; an “All Hazards” teams must demonstrate their versatility to in response to varied emergencies. Many Type 3 All Hazards Incident Management Teams are actively recruiting police and emergency medical service personnel to increase their overall capabilities; however, teams trying should consider widening their range by recruiting members from the Health, Works, and Utility departments. By recruiting outside of the norms of public safety, a team’s wide-ranging capabilities enhances its ability to rapidly integrate with existing resources, build trust with the community, and carry the capability of mitigating the impacts of the disaster.

In a disaster the initial response is primarily managed by public safety personnel; these with backgrounds in life safety issues, while Health, Works, and Utility personnel remain in primary support. As response activities continue into multiple operational periods, a community’s focus shifts from initial response to long term recovery.  The primary managerial role of public safety issues fade in the in the transition to support role, where with non-public safety departments to take primary responsibility.  Having members of non-public safety departments on the All Hazards Incident Management Teams increases overall effectiveness of the team’s long term response capabilities. Consider a situation with a non-public safety person placed in the position of Deputy Operations Chief, position to be up to speed on the situation, able to better anticipate the challenges, familiar with of existing resources and their capabilities; and ready who to help prepare tactics for the next Ops period. One speaks the language of non-public safety departments when be assigned as a Liaison Officer can assist in to building relationships with side departments and anticipate and avoid potential problems.  Non-public safety personnel placed in an Advanced Tactic Planning position can start the long term planning, anticipate logistics requests in advance of the transition from support of public safety to primarily management of the incident.

In many cases, IMT’s respond days after the initial life safety impact of a disaster. As teams arrives on scene, the immediate life safety activities may be winding down and the long term mitigation, recovery operations may well be ramping up. Communities may not have the assets, or be prepared to effectively recover after a disaster; however, they may see the IMT’s, with an emphasis on public safety capabilities, as irrelevant as it begins to focus on community health, housing, or infrastructure stabilization. IMT’s with diverse response expertise capabilities can quickly build trust with communities which may still be in shock and unable to create effective response plans. By recruiting outside of traditional areas, “All Hazards” teams build upon their capabilities to make a significant impact on a communities long term recovery operations.

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