First responder self-deployment an issue after EF-5 hits Moore, Okla.

 

By Mary Rose Roberts

For Fire Chief

An EF-5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla., on Monday, killing at least 24. In response, first responders self-deployed to the disaster area, causing problems for local emergency management officials, said Sandy Davis, director of the Caddo-Bossier (La.) Office of Homeland Security. Oklahoma state emergency management officials still are in the assessment mode and have asked first responders to stay at home because “they were overwhelmed with people who were self-deploying,” Davis said.

In the first 24 to 48 hours, the command staff still was determining what resources need to come from outside the region. Davis said that’s why self-deployed first responders create issues. First, such responders break the National Incident Command System. Second, those who deploy are without lodging, food and supplies. Finally, they may be exhausted from immediate deployment and may be unable to serve a week or so later when an official call for resources is pronounced.

“That’s a big problem at every event we have of national significance,” he said. “Because the first-responder community is so generous at volunteering time and their resources, they self-deploy and become a part of the problem instead of the solution.”

Self-deployment must be addressed, Davis said. For example, he already has fielded calls from law-enforcement agencies in Louisiana who planned to deploy resources to the region without a request from Oklahoma City. He told them to stand down.

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