Great Disasters Require an Accelerated Response

Most emergencies are resolved at the local level by professionals and volunteers who put the interests of their community above their own, and become our true heroes. When emergencies are large enough that they require the assistance of other communities, the state, the region, or our federal government, we rely on NIMS as a basis of escalating higher levels of support and control. NIMS provides order in the midst of disasters’ chaos and gives our nation’s emergency responders assurance that structured reinforcements will back up their rush into the heart of the disaster. As a basis for escalating support and control to large scale disasters NIMS needs our nation’s cooperation.

No matter the size of the emergency, however, all emergencies ultimately occur at the local level. If the emergency is large enough that if affects communities to either side of us, their emergency responders will be busy helping their own community, and we will be left to our own defenses. If our community prepares all of our defenses to work together, we will better survive the initial hours of a great disaster, and will be better able to help our neighboring communities that are worse impacted.

We are best equipped to help our community and those surrounding us when all our emergency response organizations share a vision of an organically integrated community response and have a collective desire to reach that vision. Organic integration is not a new concept. As an example, the United States has spent billions to implement the vision of integrating pre-hospital ambulance services, trauma helicopters and emergency rooms to act as one organic system that increases the survivability of accident victims during the golden hour.

Communities that create a vision of an organic mass medical evacuation system, capable of removing all their medically needy citizens from the disaster zone, will improve their citizens’ chances of survival during the 72 golden hours of an emergency. Many communities have begun to develop and implement their own shared vision that integrates their emergency management, security infrastructure, EMS and medical facilities into one organic community mass medical emergency response and evacuation system. However, while the idea seems elemental, creating and working toward shared community vision has proved difficult for most.

It seems that some in the community are less willing to commit to the effort than others. Yet all in our industry are drawn to the highest survival of our fellow citizens and desire to cooperate. Beyond cooperation, to bind all to a common vision requires that all parties believe that it will not harm their organizations. Invariably in moving toward a shared vision, impediments to participation arise that would harm individual organizations if not mitigated. Therefore, if all are to participate, a community must commit to create a shared vision that also defines and eliminate impediments that harm participation, that slow response, and that create inefficiencies in how our agencies, public, and private companies interact to save victims.

Without eliminating these inefficiencies, communities are still able to successfully respond to most emergencies we encounter, even if by brute force. However, the larger the emergency, the faster it will present itself and the more rapidly we must respond. Great disasters are measured in acceleration and our response must accelerate to meet them. The moment our community’s lack of integration is overwhelmed by the disaster’s acceleration, we learn that not eliminating impediments creates a failure point that could have been overcome.

Our impediments define the failure points of our community’s ability to respond to large disasters. Our neighbor communities are hampered by their own impediments and will be overwhelmed at some point in a disaster’s acceleration. Statewide and Federal impediments only serve to create additional complexities that thwart needed response acceleration. And our current NIMS structure, while our nation’s best escalation system, is also an anchor to acceleration. Its structure must also be revised to allow for rapid escalation.

National impediments entangle state responses, state impediments hinder local responses, and local impediments entangle our own forces from effectively and rapidly aiding our citizens. Ultimately, our nation must resolve to understand what can be achieved by eliminating historical, jurisdictional, legal, regulatory, operational, and financial impediments. All levels of government must commit to a deliberate process of determining a path forward and collectively eliminating impediments that limit our potential. Local, state, and federal governments must come together with private and public entities to create a shared vision of a future, accelerated response.

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