Other than some useful review of the modular Incident Management structure, it was hardly a class at all. Instead, it was a very useful bit of touching-base with county- and state-level Emergency Management people, along with a cameo appearance by a couple of Indiana State Police Troopers.
The purpose of the class is enable technical personnel -- Engineering and IT -- in my line of work to get to locations where we have necessary equipment, but no regular staff, during various emergencies and natural disasters (or to get to work at all; during some kinds of Snow Emergency, for instance, when the roads are deemed closed and driver risk a ticket just for operating a motor vehicle on public thoroughfares). At the end of the class, we walk away with some understanding of command structure (i.e., who to ask for, who not to bother and how to stay out of the way), some basic safety gear (hardhat, visibility vest -- we have to buy own own but that stuff s cheap) and a better understanding of how to handle interaction with emergency workers (see below) while they have picked up a little insight into who these crazy people are and why we might need past a roadblock, across a flooded stretch of road, or to be out driving in a blizzard.
One of the better quotes: "The scene of a disaster is not the place to be meeting for the first time and exchanging business cards!" In Indiana, the IDHS is the state-level coordinating agency for emergency response and they have periodic conferences of county Emergency Managers; one purpose of those is simply to get them in contact with one another before they need to go borrow a cup of snowplows or whatever. It's a good idea.
I found the class useful and the IDHS and EMA people were exactly the type I hope to see in such jobs: serious about the work, sincere in the belief the can make a positive difference. It's easy to gripe about government, especially at the bureaucrat level and even more so when it's a wrestling-smoke job like managing emergencies. Even the description borders on an oxymoron! Maybe in An-Cap Libertopia, there's a market solution to disaster; maybe all your neighbors will pitch in (just as they often do in emergencies in this world.) Here in the world of what is, these government agencies do exist. They're not going away and given that, I would rather see them in the hands of competent folks who think the job is worth doing than some tired, cynical timeserver.
For the people who moan, "Where were the Feds? Where was the state?" when things go wrong, here's how it works: emergency response happens from the bottom up; first response is coordinated and supported at the county level if it needs it. If the county finds it too big, they get help from the state. If the state needs help, they yell for the Feds. FEMA -- the good handing-out-water-and-blankets side, not the tinfoil hat fantasy seen in YouTube videos of rail yards -- is by definition the last on the scene.
To close, here's a hot tip from the Indiana State Police: "Do not tiptoe up behind an officer at a roadblock and tap him or her on the shoulder!"
(Entire class laughs.)
"No, this really happens, and more than you'd think. You don't know what that officer was just doing, helping pull a mangled body out of a car wreck, looking for an armed suspect -- they are making split-second decisions."
The other officer added, "And please, for your sake -- can I borrow this smartphone? -- do not be doing this." He'd palmed the phone and put his hand behind his right hip; as he said "this," he brought his hand back into sight just above his holster and smoothly upward, and many of us flinched: it looked for all the world as if he was drawing his sidearm. An effective lesson.
5 weeks ago