By Bernie Kelley
In order to plan for any disaster you need a plan that is flexible, scalable and places the power to make life saving decisions into your hands. A thick manual of plans for every situation conceivable is not practical. Rather, a simple standing order for disasters that you can remember in the moment of your greatest stress is necessary and sufficient. My plan is to Secure, Support, Scout and Influence.
During my time as the Command Sergeant Major for the California State Militia (CSM), I frequently had been asked my opinion regarding all manner of preparation for natural and man made disasters. Because California is huge, the social and political terrain is as vast as the natural terrain, CSM finally settled on Four Standing Orders to place the decision making power in the hands of the people most effected by the situation at hand.
Secure the Situation
The first standing order is to secure the situation, for yourself and your unit. To illustrate, please imagine that a person is drowning in front of you. Your first reaction might be jump in and save the person, which is not something that professional rescue personnel would consider; it’s the thought process of well meaning people who don’t completely understand the situation.
The person in the deep water, has no place to stand, no place to push or pull from and is in the process of succumbing to gravity drawing them down to their death. By jumping in you have duplicated the situation for yourself. Maybe you are an excellent swimmer, maybe you were even a world class water polo player who thrived in combative water sport; but jumping into an unsafe situation, in an attempt to save another, more often than not makes two victims.
Volunteers Become Victims
In every disaster from car wrecks to drownings from hurricanes to fires, volunteers become victims and casualties. Research regarding the injury rate and negative impact of untrained volunteers began in the 1990’s. Now there are many programs that have popped up to train a civilian corp of responders.
Community Emergency Response Training (C.E.R.T.) is one program. The primary goal of these programs is to make the altruistic volunteer safe before they are placed in harm’s way. In many disasters, volunteers are turned away by professionals and emergency response organizations because of the danger they present to themselves, other volunteers, and the already struggling victims.
Standing order for disasters: Safety First
Safety first, security first. Identify the danger in the situation, establish a secure perimeter to work in by setting look outs and observers who are monitoring the danger and looking for new danger (Safety Officer). to direct the flow of people away.
Set guards who will prohibit non-essential personnel and direct the flow of people. Create buddies who will watch out for each other as they work in the situation. Everybody is a safety officer and provides security first. Securing the situation enables you to take the next steps and establish medical and communications.