There Are No Volunteer Politicians
The enormity of the task of disaster planning lies in just that phrase—disaster planning. Our minds wander to the catastrophes we have experienced, know of, read about, and imagine in our most depressing thoughts. Yet, in spite of a mind-boggling collection of events that may be termed disasters, we choose to face it with a commitment—planning.
But how can we accomplish such a task? Mud slides, floods, tornadoes, avalanches, tidal waves, blizzards, wildfires, explosions, conflagrations, etc., give no warning, and are usually remote in recurrence. All of us in the emergency services try to communicate our regional lessons as our communities are touched by disaster.
This is catch up at best!
The National Fire Academy and the Emergency Management Institute provide a center for disaster and disaster management information. Benicia, Crescent City, Coalinga, New York, Texas City, Kansas City, Covington, etc., all represent lessons learned the hard way. Gathering critique data from these areas of disaster that were geographically and communicatively remote from one another was the initial goal of these agencies. The lessons learned are gathered, collated, coordinated, and formulated into a constantly revised plan for other areas of our nation that may experience similar incidents.
Fire and emergency service leaders have been giving time (mostly their own costly hours) to attend seminars in Emmitsburg, MD, to gather the collective information and lessons available on disasters. In this way, they may, perchance, not have to “reinvent the wheel” should a similar incident present itself to responders in their own communities.
The Fire Academy charges no fee to the attendees. In fact, courses have been accessible to the greatest majority of our fire service decision makers only because their travel expenses are reimbursed by the Academy.
The annual reimbursed student stipend (a mere $1 million) is now expected to be cut by the national budget committee. This, in effect, would prevent many of our emergency decision makers from attending courses at the Academy. Strategy, tactics, and procedures used in mitigating disasters would assuredly be less efficient than if the incident’s commander had been able to formulate plans based on his exposure to similar, national experiences. The economic multiplier involved in emergency decisions made without the benefit of these excellent seminars should be evident to all of us.
If we in the fire service could get our act together, we would represent the greatest lobbying group to ever haunt the halls of our lawmakers. We would be able to trip up those receiving enormous grants to perform studies so idiotic that results only provide comic relief in the void of hard news copy.
The common good that the Fire Academy represents can only grow with the help of the budget maker’s constituents—YOU! It’s time we made ourselves heard. It’s bad enough to have to protect our public with one hand tied behind our backs. To get slapped around breaks the straw.
How can we be responsive to public demand and to our own internal commitment to plan for disaster without the necessary education?