Disaster Response series:
‘When Rescuers Need Rescuing’
Widespread natural disasters are increasing in regularity and severity. It is of little surprise when rescuers need rescuing. Mother Nature gives no quarter to emergency services personnel over any other.
The good news. In certain quarters, the willing and able no longer ask . . . why is this happening? But what can I do to help? Here is what I have to offer: this is my skill set.
Buffalo, NY, USA—a case in point
Over three days of Christmas 2022, at Lake Erie's eastern end in Buffalo, NY, USA.
Over four feet of windblown snow accumulated over a large swath of the region in a couple of short days. It was the most severe snowstorm in the United States in a generation—an all-time record-breaking weather event.
Streets and highways were strewn with vehicles where they stood. Hundreds of cars and trucks, even some service vehicles, were stuck in feet of wind-induced drifting snow throughout the region.
Motorists remained trapped in their vehicles for up to two days after the 3-day blizzard and covered by snow, without heat and other life sustenance. Sometimes, for entire families, where emergency services could not get to them, the risks of exposure mounted by the minute.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, an Erie County resident herself, declared a state of emergency. The federal government soon followed.
Have you ever been caught in a whiteout or snow squall? If so, you know how disorientating extreme blinding weather can be. A Buffalonian describes it as a "blizzard in a hurricane" for an entire day. The Lake Erie effect produced a gale-like hurricane wind in a massive snow dump—a test well beyond average measures for emergency services to operate.
It got so bad that the Buffalo Police reported rescuers caught out and in trouble themselves. They were overwhelmed by the severity and force of the hurricane-effect snowstorm. Again, this results in emergency response teams needing rescue. Ambulance, fire, search & rescue, and even snowplow operators had trouble answering the call . . . healthcare professionals as well.
Almost everything stops when one cannot see in a snowstorm. Or at least it should! In addition to vehicle pile-ups and carnage caused by a sudden, blinding storm, highways and city streets are clogged up with abandoned vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Even a fire engine! Imagine that . . . making it difficult for emergency vehicles to pass, even once the weather lets up.
Erie County Sherriff John Garcia reported that by the 3rd day, 420 EMS calls had gone unanswered. According to the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), this is not uncommon for widespread climate and natural disasters.
Imagine waiting days to be rescued because there may not be enough rescuers', even non-professional rescuers, to heed the calls for help. Seems unbelievable!
The size and scope of this blizzard also forced thousands of residents to shelter in their homes for days.
Many were without heat, hydro, medicines, or other sustaining supplies. Many were shortof the basics for life, like food, water, and warming blankets. Others required non-elective, emergency medical treatments, like dialysis, for instance, insulin, childbirth health services, and other life-saving medical treatments. Folks freezing to death, roofs caving in, flooding . . . all reported.
Federal and State/Provincial Responders
We purposefully use the phrase "BIG government" to define the federal, state/provincial integrated emergency management agencies. To distinguish their response from that of the community and regional government.
So where was BIG government in the early stages of this severe weather event? They were marshalling their response from across the state and beyond. Coming from away and not there yet. During the period when only emergency services operating close by could answer immediate calls for help.
According to FEMA, it can take some time,days perhaps, for BIG government resources to set up on the scene. They recommend communities be prepared for this. This depends on location and how hard-hit the area is. Similar logistics would also come into play for other major relief agencies (NGOs).
Why? Besides the inherent organizational logistics, there are many variables. Impediments to accurate forecasting, for instance. Natural elements of uncertainty to contend with for weather and natural disaster events. Plenty to gage . . . storm severity, epicentre, terrain, timing, fallout, and so forth. Mother Nature is hard to predict. So, it is for the movement of large relief organizations getting into position.
Of note, isolated cases of a "whole community" response helped save lives in the Buffalo region, even though it seems to have little to no community-wide advanced planning.
The 'Responder's First' initiative
The 'Responder's First' initiative grants select emergency and safety equipment to affected communities, as needed, worldwide. To fill inevitable shortfalls of safety and emergency equipment for citizen volunteers arriving ill-prepared at the front lines. Providing campaign funds are available to purchase and deliver the equipment when called upon. That is, as critical needs continue to dictate.
Operationally, we call upon community emergency services to manage who gets what and when regarding localized donor-funded resources. For example, fire, police, search & rescue, etc. Depending on the situation, whichever local agency or response team is best equipped to coordinate this for their community. These equipment donations may be relatively small but certainly impactful.
Fund-US - Disasters Aid to Citizen-Volunteers
We need help! Your support will make a world of difference in response to catastrophic disasters across the globe!
The cost of a pint or a glass of wine will help address the critical shortage of emergency equipment amongst citizen volunteers thrust into joining search, rescue, and recovery operations worldwide. This all-hands effort is to shore up their safety and effectiveness—while reducing suffering and loss of life. We are all first responders . . .
The smallest of giving adds up, and we cannot do the work without it. $10-15 per donation is good – less or more, whatever is manageable. Donations in kind, back-linking, etc. and sharing this along are all valuable ways to contribute.
To fund and deliver humanitarian equipment aid to the citizen-volunteer front line. The volume of equipment delivered worldwide is wholly dependent on the donations received. There is no shortage of need.
#HumanitarianAid, #Responder'sFirst, #Fund-US, #AscentProvisions
Phone: 604-732-4042; 1-800-361-0473 (N America)