I am new to this site, my involvement in the field is in Emergency Management.
A topic I'd like to hear responses from is, How prepared is your department to handle mass casualties due to either natural or man made disaster? Has your department undergone specialized training, do you drill for such an event, etc. . .? Also, is there a greater need for preparation in the smaller departments vs the larger city departments?

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Honestly, i think my department would do pretty decent in a hold-onto-your-pants-its-the-big-un real life mass cas..... we have had events on a smaller scale that were still large enough to get out the command boards, the different color tarps, and all that jazz (I personally was onscene of the vienna, va fourth of july fireworks incident where something went terribly wrong and the grand finale of fireworks launched into the crowd instead of into the sky)

also, between the police dept volunteer program I used to be a part of, and the fire department I still volunteer with in my county I have been a part of no less that 5 MCI drills with a very large quantity of "victims", the region has also held drills to ensure that things would run smoothly in the event that a large quantity of medicine needed to be dispensed to the general population, though i took no part in that one and therefore cannot comment on how well it went.

Of course a real life its-the-big-one MCI is going to have some element of chaos to it, but i think that overall everyones training will kick in and we'll get through it.
We are fortunate here as well. Here the fire department and EMS are two seperate departments not associated with one another on a business manner. We assist them, they assist us. In a MCI they have a MCI trailer and we would be implimented into the response. We have trainings that integrate the MCI into the firefighting standpoint. Gives us more time working together through the ICS.
Real life, who knows. A split second decision could make or break any event and we will all never know the outcome until faced with the situation. All we can do is our part by training hard, and working together in training to become more proficient in the things we need to do.

Finally...another disaster responder. I dont feel so lonely now.

My department is relatively small compared to some major urban centers, though we serve a couple of counties and about 65,000 people. We are prepared for the "Big 'un" in a couple of major ways. Here they are:

1. We have a very, VERY detailed IAP (Incident Action Plan). It basically it an all hands on deck plan and we know where every apparatus, individual, piece and other resource will go in the event of the Big One (which could be soon since I live on the New Madrid fault. Talk about the need for all hands on deck!). Our officers meet and train constantly for incident command and liaison with other agencys (Fire, EMS, Police, Rescue) to know where we will start, how we will execute the plan, how we will sustain it and as Colin Powell said is his "Colin's Laws" --we always have an achievable exist strategy and far more resources than we need are always called in an MCI type event. You can always turn them around or send them home.

2. We are a member department of MABAS (Mutual Aide Box Alarm System). MABAS is a huge list which started in IL and is spreading to WI, IN, IA and MN. Basically, each department who belongs to MABAS has a CARD. It says what they have in terms of apparatus, personnel, resources, etc. Basically, say we have a local flood. We can call MABAS dispatch and say that we need every department resource that can bring us boats, divers, etc. So while we try to have everything we need, no department can have everything whether its because of budgets, space constraints, or small numbers of personnel. We dont have the latter problem since we have hit our ceiling for volunteers. We always have more folks show up than we can send out then they agree to sit at the station for a couple of hours in case it all gets worse and they need to go and to cover other alarms. Also, if we get hammered with a big MCI, we have departments in two towns on either side of us who are much bigger, career departments who have agreed that they will send their standby rigs and auxiliary personnel to cover our area whilst we are dealing with the MCI.

MABAS and ICS are the best things to happen to dealing with MCI/All-Hazard incidents. To be able to "call in the cavalry" (MABAS) units and then also know how and where to use them (ICS) is a great comfort. If we get a fully involved chemical plant as we did about 2 years ago, we can put out a MABAS call and we will have all the help in the world in about 20 minutes. Its fantastic. You can check it out at MABAS. org. Im currently going through the MABAS Region 8 Recruit FF2 Academy (Class 2008-8) and its wonderful. Training with members from so many departments gives fantastic insights into how to how others do it, which then also lets us say, "he lets use YXZFD's plan for this" instead of standing around scratching our heads and saying "I got nothin."

Like you, my primary field is emergency management and I am working on my masters in it now at AMU.

And we do drill and train with lots of other departments and since my academy is MABAS, we are learning with FFs from lots of other firefighters from all over northern IL and southern WI.

If you'd like to chat about it, PM me. Ive got lots of good info I can refer you to or send you.


In 2006 we had a tornado hit and we learned we were prepared and not prepared if that makes any scense. Small town 2500 people with about 25 ff and 12 being medical first responders. After the initial oh what factor we settled down and got to business. Had a lot of good mutual aid from surrounding county and city fire stations. We still dont have a really good sop. I have talked to the chief quite a few times and we have come up with some basic ideas but dont have anything written sops. I have tried to find some to modify to suit us but have not had a lot of luck. I have made a few "kits" that have information we used but its still rough. Any one have urls or sops that might help I would greatly appreciate any ideas anyone has.
We can manage during a disaster.
We belong to two MABAS divisions, could tap IEMA is need be and I'm sure if that doesn't do it, personal requests for aid could go out to bring in more resource.
We are OK, as long as the money doesn't run out.
We won't be borrowing any of FEMA's trailers, though.
Our department is well versed in Emergency Management/ Disaster response and I we have been put through the ringer on more than one occassion. I feel that we do a fairly decent job with handling the incident, however, we can always improve. Centrally located between D.C and Baltimore, we have a large amount of funding to pick up aparatus and additional training. Our department works closely with other agencies in the area to furter train for all types of incidents such as plane crashes, hazardous chemical releases, train derailments and crashes, ect, ect. Recently, we have developed a new radio failure policy and have incorporated HAMM radio operators that are now written in to SOP/SOG's. Each fire station, police station, and hospital has a HAMM radio repeater and tower for events. The operators train roughly every quarter to ensure the systems are working and their training is up to date in case of a catastrophic failure.
Just as a sidenote-

There was a video on TV the other day that showed a train derailment outside of Keokuk, Iowa. The train was hauling tanks of LPG, cyanide, various other fuels, solvents, etc when she left the tracks and piled up. When the representative from the railroad got there, the local village fire department was on scene, as the tanks were blowing up one by one. The department consisted of the the chief and sole firefighter (same person) whose only apparatus was a canon/pump bolted into the bed of his pick up truck. Not much good from the HazMat and State Police one mile exclusion zone. Now this may have been a fire in which there was no other choice but to let the beast burn herself out, but it shows how even the smallest towns need to get that mass incident funding, they need it bad and they need it now. There are grants from DHS, FEMA, state EMA's available but what are the likelihood that the firefighter using his pickup knows about them. I wont name names, but in central IL, I know of a town of about 80 people with the same problem. They are not a MABAS department, would have a hell of a time getting mutual aide and they are nothing but railroad crossings and farm fields. One good AMFO explosion in a farm field could literally take this little burg right off the map. I bet if Chief22 thinks about it, he knows the town I am talking about. I drive through there regularly and think it would be a great spot for a disaster drill to see exactly what could be brought to bear if something happened. I know they have put injured persons in the back of a pick up to start driving them toward an interstate where EMS could intercept.

By the way, Steve, I like the idea of having HAMM folks in your SOG's. This is a great use ofthem. I know that USCG Auxiliary radio watchstanders are more often than not HAMM folks. As soon as I can afford it, I am going to get my technicians license.

This is a good thread, Karen. I hope it keeps going.
My dept and our regular mutual aid would do a decent to good job on a larger scale disaster in our area. We had to evacuate and track residents from a 80 unit nursing home, evacuate 1/4 of a neighboring township due to massive flooding with numerous roads impassable, several plane crashes, controlling traffic on 4 lane main road thru town and so on. But we work together on a regular basis for all sizes of incidents and are very familiar with each other and the equipment available. Within a 1o minute drive from our station(no lights/sirens) we have 4 other rescue companies,HazMat team, Dive team, ATV Search and Rescue team, MCI trailer, Mobile Comm bus, Rehab trailer(available soon), Pump trailer(all pumps and hoses needed for flooded residences. There is also a county airport and a National Guard Armoury located in the middle of our township. In addition to that we have a technical rescue trailer(trench,structural collapse and confined space) at our station that can get us started as the other 2/3 of the county tech team responds. This is what we can put on scene within the first 20 minutes(regular drive time) from departments that we work with on a fairly regular basis. On a county basis our county has handled evacuating most of a busy downtown area due to train derailment and fire, passenger airplane crash, oil refinery explosion along with the usual large fires and such. After every large incident we conduct an after action type discussion to find out what worked and what didn't. On a yearly basis we participate in disaster drill for local nuclear plant, and our EMA conducts a severe weather drill every year. We just held a county wide disaster drill over an entire weekend(something going on somewhere from 1800 friday thru 2359 sunday).

As far as need for preparation...if we dont do a certain skill on a regular basis then we had better do more of that. The larger cities still train for these types of events and reguraly handle large scale incidents and events, think of the MCI possibilities at the boston marathon, super bowl...etc. All that means is the smaller departments had better practice often because we dont have the frequent oppurtinities to put it into use
Not sure why but our EMA only has a large mass incident with the larger towns and does nothing with the smaller city or county stations. they have equipment that i guess would be used in the event of a disaster. I know EMS has one MCI trailer, my thoughts are one large trailer limits them. We have individually talked about things and as far as ems goes stocked the best we can. The fire department has slowly been trying to get every member a radio. The medical first responders have bags that rival most bls units with the exception of an AED. I have also made a power point "what to do in a disaster" and talked with a few different groups in trying to prep the public. I have read some of the other posts and have gotten some ideas that i will pass along to the chief next time we discuss disasters. Sorry if this seems a bit rambling but reading and writing this while at work.
What kind of equipment do the different stations have for MCI. I figure everyone has the usual fire trucks, ambulances. But does anyone have any "specialized" equipment? Something geared more towards MCI or is it something that would be multy functional. We are a small department covering about 3500 people. As far as equipment we have what rivals most of the larger cities in the area. Our chief believes in having the best possible. He tries to get grants for anything thats possible.
Well, it would really depend on how many members were close enough to the firehouse to able to respond. We have a lot of members who work out-of-state, out-of-county, and out-of-town so the ones only out-of-town would probably be there, but the rest might not even receive the call. My Chief works for the New Jersey State Police Hazardous Materials Response Unit so if there was an incident concerning CBRNE materials of any hazardous materials we would have the State and subsequently the Federal government here in no time. That's a good thing when you have people like that as members of your department(s). He also does the NJ State Police Bomb Squad and the USAR Team so we would have a lot of immediate resources available to us unlike a lot of departments who are unable to receive immediate help and resources. It's fortunate for us, but unfortunate for other departments.

Overall, though, I think my departments and my whole township would be ready for a mass-casualty incident if it ever did happen.
One thing about mass casualty incidents is that they can and do happen. Every day. I would submit that any department who doesnt have the big red notebook containing the Incident Action Plan might not be as ready as they think. Its great to have apparatus and personnel and connections and money, but if you have no pre-organized way to implement it all for all of the situations your EMA can concoct as a possibility, all of the gear and people and cash in the world is just that. Stuff and money. Its kind of like when the LAPD had to go to a gun shop and commandeer M16s for the W. Hollywood bank robbery. Now they know better and have the materials and a plan.

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