Thursday, June 4, 2009

Conference Notes (Part 7 of 7) Handling People After a Disaster

One of your major tasks after a disaster if you are in a facility that people will gravitate to (ie: school, airport, hospital, community center, etc) is handling people. You will have injured people, mentally ill people, worried well people, people who want to help, people who are frail or infirm, people who are displaced from their homes, etc. Here's some tips for handling people after a disaster:
  • Triaging people after a disaster is often a common task. The dead are put in one place, the nearly dead are put in another place, the critically ill or injured are sent for immediate treatment, and the not so severely injured are often put in another place to wait for treatment. Note that when you are triaging people, you are often triaging groups or families--what do you do with the rest of the family if mom is sent to the hospital, dad is waiting for less emergent care, and there are four kids running around with them?
  • If you don't control a crowd at the beginning of a situation, you will be overwhelmed. It is virtually impossible to show up at a scene and reason with a large, unruly crowd. Immediately after a disaster, if you expect a crowd to show up at your door (ie: to a hospital, community center, etc) you need to become immediately organized: traffic control, access control, security, information for people, a way to process people through your facility, etc.
  • A good way to get control of a group is to give people something to do. People who have no idea what's going on, who feel out of control, and who are flailing about are more difficult to control than people who are given a task and expected to perform--it keeps them busy, keeps them out of your way, and keeps their attention on the task and not the overall situation.
  • Signage is important. You don't want to answer the same "where is..." question two hundred times.
  • People who will be dealing with the crowds after a disaster should be trained, as a team, before the disaster occurs so that they will be able to work efficiently and effectively together to control the scene and the people at the scene. Note that the government's National Incident Management System has become the the de facto incident management system in the US.
  • If you will be handling people after a disaster (ie: at a hospital, airport, casino, school, large office complex, etc) you need to be prepared to be on your own for up to 96 hours. This includes: shelter, food, water, sanitation, decontamination, medical supplies/care, security, communications, entertainment, etc.
  • A system for tracking people is also important. How will you track who went to what hospital? How will you reunite children with parents?

1 comment:

  1. Another issue to meditate on:

    In one of our Emergency Management Team meetings, I brought up the issue of securing the dead.

    I see this as a law enforcement issue rather than a respect for the dead issue.

    If the disaster is of the terrorism sort, then the bodies will be forensic evidence and, I suspect, subject to chain of custody issues.

    I would hate to have a case against someone responsible thrown out on a technicality because one piece of evidence (a body) was unsecured ie. able to be tampered with...