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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Your Agency's Disaster Family Care SOP

My agency's what?

You read it right.

Disaster Family Care Standard Operating Procedure.

It was a chore for many of us to get our agencies to admit that we needed to develop the SOP for LODDs. But when they happen is for sure not the time to try to write them up.

Likewise for taking care of family in event of a major disaster.

Figure what happened in Japan happens in your area. Hundreds of thousands need help, right now. And where is your family? Are they OK? Do they need you, too? Right in the belly of the beast of a MAJOR catastrophe is when rescuers are needed more than ever, and when many of us are simultaneously more likely than ever to abandon our posts because our spouses, children and other loved ones are non-negotiable personal number one priorities. (Speaking for myself, I'll get the double-whammy.... both the FD and power company will be expecting me to show up.)

Would you feel better if you knew that someone was watching out for them and taking care of business while you are working to save the world with your brothers and sisters? Someone you can really trust?

Enter the Disaster Family Care SOP.

This can take a wide range of approaches, but what it boils down to is that your agency will have one or more assigned personnel, as many as it takes depending on the size of your agency, whose only responsibility in time of major catastrophe is locating and accounting for designated family members, and ensuring that they are protected, sheltered, fed and clothed.

How you develop this policy will vary widely depending on the size and scope of your agency, where you live, and what hazards are possible or plausible.

The policy will require that each member at least annually verify or update the persons who will be searched out and accounted for, and protected in event of disaster. This list will need to include names, phone numbers, schools, places of work, and cars driven, etc. Obviously, for privacy concerns, this information will also need to be carefully guarded internally.

It will require that family members know how to reach the person(s) in your agency who will take care of them. Phone numbers if they work, meeting places if they don't. For outlying areas, there might be neighborhood-based or even per-family-based meeting places. You figure out what it will take and what can be reasonably managed, and make it happen.

Your agency's family protection personnel will need to have transportation assets that will be available to them in this time of need that are capable of getting in and around rough terrain, and of moving multiple family members at a time.

Your policy will need to identify one or more designated places of shelter for families of emergency personnel, and have access to resources to care for their needs for at least 72 hours, but longer wouldn't hurt.

As heartless as it sounds to outsiders, the families of rescue personnel do require priority attention. We saw that when families were given first priority after rescuers themselves to get vaccinated for the swine flu "panic" - so that rescuers wouldn't end up staying home to care for sick family members.

The truth is that without that priority of care for our families, rescue workers may gradually peel off to watch out for their own at home, and then the whole rescue operation will break down.

Therefore, in order to ensure your agency is there for the citizenry when it really hits the fan, your department actually should consider itself obligated to develop this SOP. With this plan in place, we will all sleep better at night, and not be afraid of being caught at work when the big one comes.

Stay safe out there.

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