Fire Service Operations and Tactics During Disasters and Emergencies

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Active Shooter and Mass Casualty Incidents

This guide is a fire and emergency medical services (EMS) resource that can be used to support planning and preparation for active shooter and mass casualty incidents. These complex and demanding incidents may be well beyond the traditional training and experience of the majority of firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The U.S. Fire Administration offers this guide as one source of many available for the public safety community, but it takes into consideration the diverse local service levels available across America. In developing the guide, we consulted with individuals and groups engaged in fire and pre-hospital emergency medical services, law enforcement, and hospital medical and trauma care. We also consulted with public safety organizations and numerous federal agencies.

Fire Service Operations during the April 2011 Southeastern Tornados

On April 27, 2011, a devastating series of tornados struck Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The dollar loss has been roughly tallied at $6 billion in insured losses and a total of over $10 billion for all losses. An estimated 336 lives were lost in the region’s tornados and related events, with 239 of those in Alabama. At least 10,000 homes were heavily damaged or destroyed and dozens of public facilities were rendered inoperative. Many areas that were isolated by road closures and power outages extended over two weeks in some rural areas. At least five tornados were rated at EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale).

A series of meetings was held in the summer of 2011 to look at fire department and emergency medical services (EMS) organization activities in Alabama and Georgia during the tornados. Over 50 representatives of impacted departments attended and each had an opportunity to respond to specific questions as well as provide a free range of their own inputs.

The report, Fire Service Operations for the Southeastern Tornados – April 2011, condenses those meetings and inputs and provides an insight into the routines, challenges and needs of local fire and EMS agencies during preparation for, response to and recovery from, natural disasters. It serves as a benchmark to provide USFA an opportunity for evaluation to ensure we are providing the services that the first responder community requires for success, as well as to guide directions for future activities.

Geospatial Information Technologies and the U.S. National Grid

Geospatial Information Technologies (GIT), like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS), can facilitate critical decision-making before a disaster impacts an area. In the early, crucial stages of a disaster or emergency and throughout the disaster process, responders, emergency managers, public works and utility entities, and the general public use geospatial technologies and products (maps) because they provide important information, quickly and in ever more so easy-to-understand standardized formats.

Every day there are hundreds of natural disasters world-wide. Some are dramatic, whereas others are barely noticeable. A natural disaster is commonly defined as a natural event with catastrophic consequences for living things in the vicinity. Those events include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides, tsunami, volcanoes, and wildfires. Human-caused disasters are events that are caused by man either intentionally or by accident, and that directly or indirectly threatens public health and well-being. These occurrences span the spectrum from terrorist attacks to accidental oil spills.

To assist in planning and preparing for, mitigating of, and responding to emergencies and natural and potential human-caused disasters, geospatial technologies help ensure a unified and informed enterprise, effective command and control and rapid coordination through accurate and precise exchange and communication of spatial information. Every activity related to incident response, from command and coordination, logistical support, to informing the public is related to location…the location of things, events, and people.

The information that follows, including the NETC campus map, illustrates one important National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) standard, the U.S. National Grid (USNG), adopted in order to reduce confusion among GIT manufacturers, GPS/GIS users and map producers. It reduces training for map users to a single, mature, flexible, easy-to-use system. USNG is required for integrated operations and a common operating picture. It ensures interoperability of geospatial information among different response organizations and their equipment.

Information technologies (IT) used for the Incident Command System (ICS), Personnel Accountability Systems (PAS), emergency vehicle transponders and much more will grow in their reliance on location services and, thus, the national grid. Logistically, a national grid ensures that equipment purchased by the multitude of agencies and government at all levels will be interoperable, regardless of where they respond.

GIT/USNG Links of Interest