Friday, September 14, 2018

License to be stupid?

It could very well be that I'm remembering incorrectly or the social media coverage is more focused for this storm.  It seems to me that that there is (was) more of a preemptive response of rescue assets going to the Carolina's for Hurricane Flo.
From what I remember seeing with Harvey last year, the majority of rescue teams arrived post-storm. One of the reasons for the arrival of the Cajun Navy, which came about from a lacking response in Louisiana.

So, back to my point and if accurate, makes me ponder some questions.  Is this pre-staging of resources an attempt to discourage groups like the Cajun Navy?
At a water rescue conference I attended two years ago, one of the speakers made some comments regarding the civilian response.  While lauding their efforts, he also commented on the potentially dangerous precedent it set.  If you recall, the media was all over this story of the "heroics" of these civilians coming to the rescue of their neighbors.  The concern in the rescue community is people meaning well but then getting into trouble themselves.

There are several points that were made to which I completely agree.  I elaborate on those points (and add a couple of my own) below.

  • There is a command and accountability system in place for rescue agencies, whether it be on a single family house fire or a large scale incident.  It's there for the safety of those responding.  If a team of three go out, those three need to come back.
  • Not being part of the command and accountability structure leads to what is called "freelancing".  On the a fire scene, it can quickly get someone injured or killed.  Examples; a hose stream placed in the wrong place at the wrong time can give another firefighter steam burns, a window or room ventilated at the wrong time can cause a flashover or induce fire spread.  In a flood situation freelancing may not have the immediate consequences as on a fire scene, however the lack of accountability (who and how many are where) runs a higher risk of the would-be rescuer needing to be rescued.  Perhaps there is a noted hazard in an area the freelancer does not know about.
  • Water rescue is dangerous.  It is considered a high risk, low frequency event, although there has been no shortage of water rescue stories in the news this past year.  Many hours of training are needed to become proficient.  Flowing water is relentless and unforgiving.
  • Awareness and adherence to proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).  ANY flood situation is a giant haz-mat situation.  Take everything under your kitchen and bathroom sink and dump it the swimming pool.  Now add raw sewage and a bunch more stuff you don't know about and that's what's in floodwater.  Drysuits are a must, regardless of ambient temperatures.  I cringe every time I see people playing in floodwater.  If they only knew...
Back on point to this post title.
Does the ever-increasing FEMA team response to disaster tend to propagate a dependency on that response?
If people were more self-responsible for their own safety, would the response from rescue agencies need to be as great?  Are we as a society enabling personal irresponsibility?  "I don't need to prepare or evacuate because the government will take care me."


  1. Everything has it's good points and bad points. For instance, the Red Cross made people go hungry for nearly 24 hours, rather than let Good Samaritans pass out food in front of their shelters. I'd rather lose someone once in a while being helped by the unknowing than for dozens of people to drown or die of exposure.

  2. It IS a bit of a troublesome puzzle. Pre-staging is great when it can be done, although you might end up having difficulty getting to what you staged if a monster disaster stomps all over it. And organization keeps people focused, helps eliminate unnecessary waste of time. Not to mention noticing that Joe didn't come back in when he was supposed to and maybe finding an injured Joe in time to save him rather than Joe laying in the mud all night until he dies.

    But dependence on government agencies is also dangerous since they often operate inefficiently and can be run by incompetents. And sometimes the government just can't get there in time. Or corruption, like in Puerto Rico, can render their efforts meaningless.

    And, yeah, I'm fairly dirt-tolerant, butI see people (New Orleans comes to mind), wading and swimming in floodwaters and all I can think is INFECTION INFECTION INFECTION!!!