May 13, 2009
First responders might not have access to areas.
In Emergency Management, we commonly talk about two phases of a disaster. Phase 1 is response and phase 2 is recovery. I would like to break it down ever further.
Phase 1 begins with you responding and taking care of yourself. You are your own first responder. It is commonly suggested that you be able to care for yourself for at least 72 hours, but two weeks would be even better because truthfully, we don't know when the firefighters, police, ambulance and other "first responders" will be able to get to you.
During Hurricane Katrina, I took a turn manning the public emergency phone line in Mississippi. I received a call from a town asking when help was going to arrive. The town was completely blocked off by debris, hot electrical wires, downed bridges and ruined roads. It was impossible to get there any way but by air. Mississippi at that time only had access to five helicopters. They had to pull two back from rescuing folks off their roofs. They got to the town as soon as they could. Those people had to be their own first responders.
I hate to make it sound like you are on your own, but in the beginning … you are on your own. Your local public safety agencies will get to you as soon as possible. They will be swamped with requests for assistance. The more self-sufficient you can be, the more you will help your community.
So really there are three phases: 1. Personal responsibility 2. Response by trained personnel 3. Recovery
Be ready. Be self-sufficient. A complete list of recommended emergency kit items is posted on the Oregon Emergency Management Blog http://oem-oregon.blogspot.com.
Jennifer Bailey, formerly of FEMA, is the Public Affairs Coordinator of Oregon Emergency Management. She may be reached at (503) 378-2911, Ext. 22294 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Additional Facts
Please send questions about emergency preparedness to be answered in this column to email@example.com. Other information may be found at www.oregon.gov/omd/oem or www.fema.gov