By Bill Tricarico
Sr. Risk Management Consultant
McNeil & Company
This has been a tough winter for much of the country. Heavy snows in much of the nation have wreaked havoc with driving conditions and business as usual, but another fallout from those snows will be coming more noticeable in the weeks to come…flooding. The week of March 16th to 22nd has been designated Flood Awareness Week and preparation is extremely important.
As emergency service providers, that’s going to mean some difficult times providing first response to people in need who are in danger of losing everything and potentially their lives. Certainly before this spring has ended, we will have seen some daring res-cues and so many people alive through the efforts of our emergency service system.
Since many of you are going to be very busy, now is the time to think about your own organization and prepare for the worst.
You should review your department policies for handling flood incidents and be certain that all members are aware of them as well as NIMS. This review should also include developing potential flood areas and pre-planning specific hazards which may need to be remedied beforehand. Remember that common street markings could be underwater or swept away making familiar territory very strange. Be certain that all equipment including portable equipment such as saws are in working order and fueled. Since a loss of power is possible, alternative communication methods should be developed, cascade bottles and all SCBA bottles should be filled, and manual pumping equipment on fuel tanks if available should be tested.
In addition, you must remember that you have buildings of your own which must be prepared for such emergencies. Check the physical condition of all buildings making certain that sump pumps are working properly and drains are free of all debris. Plans should be developed for the relocation of apparatus and equipment should it become necessary.
Basement storage should be moved to higher ground and all storage should be raised off the floor. Of particular sensitivity are electrical devices, radio equipment, and records storage. Be certain that generators and emergency lighting in the buildings are operable. You should have a complete, up to date inventory of all equipment and furnishings. Take photos before the flooding if possible.
If you find that you must evacuate your station, attempt to turn off utilities at the main switches or valves and disconnect electrical appliances if able to do so before water rises.
Remember preparing for such emergencies can greatly reduce damage and get you back into service as quickly as possible.