Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti - Continued

Sorry I haven't been able to follow up today, but it was crazy busy for the K.B.F.P.D. today and this is the first chance I have had to get to my computer.

I got a lot to say but not too much time so things will jump around a little.

*'s Big Picture has posted a second set of images from Haiti. In many ways, these are more horrific than the first and they present a larger scope of the devastation. There are a few that claim to be disturbing, don't click on them unless you want to see what disaster is really about.

* I can't remember for sure, but I think six FEMA USAR teams were activated for deployment to Haiti. These are in addition to the two USAID/FEMA teams that went out yesterday. It is highly unusual for FEMA teams to leave the country (except for the three that are part of USAID) and requires a presidential order. I believe that this is the first time it has been done, President Obama seems committed to helping these people out.

* An anonymous commenter who's dad is on CA-TF2 asked me to pass on any info that I might receive from Cal2. Sorry my friend, it is highly unlikely I will hear anything. Hopefully, the TFL (task force leader) will keep the home agency posted via SAT Phone or other means. Those people are trained and well led, I am sure they will be fine.

Some of the challenges that these teams may face include:

* Logistical support - Local resources are probably not going to be available. Supplies and equipment are going to have to be brought in from other countries and supplied to the teams. The coordination of logistical support is critical, with many agencies from many organizations and countries requiring logistical support. The typical self-sufficiency window is 72 - 96 hours. The logs chain needs to be established by that time.

* Security - Large masses of thirsty, hungry and injured people can present problems if security is not addressed. I have a feeling that a number of the US Marine Expeditionary Force and the 82nd Airborne from the US Army will be used as force security. Some of these folks performed this function hurricane Katrina operations and did a great job.

* Transportation - Getting from the BOO (Base of Operations) to an operational site can be an issue, especially when roads are blocked by debris and other hazards. In addition, since all of the teams are arriving by air, ground transport must initially be provided by local sources. In a disaster of this magnitude, it may be an issue. It may take a while to establish ground transport or helicopter support.

* Intel - Maps, photographs and other intelligence needs are going to be difficult to obtain. Blueprints, plans and other important documents that teams use when working at collapsed structures are likely not going to be available. Calculations that the team structural engineers use to determine loads, shoring needs and hazard assessments are likely to be different that the ones they usually use.

* Sub-standard building codes, materials and methods - These factors add to the risk factors when conducting search and rescue operations in and around damaged buildings. Secondary collapse is always a risk, these factors magnify the risk.

* Illness and disease - Images are already starting to show the local people walking around with their noses and mouths covered to block out the smell of the deceased. The lack of sanitary capabilities may cause severe problems for the populace. Hygiene practices for the team members is critical to prevent illness.

* Lack of local governance - In a typical deployment, the USAR teams are used to support the local government by providing technical rescue capabilities which they do not have. Priorities and strategic objectives are provided by the local government. I don't think that is going to happen here. 

These are just a few of the challenges these teams face. They are well trained. I am sure they will adapt as necessary and overcome these and any other challenges that arise. Good luck to them, pray that they stay safe, as well as for all of the people suffering in Haiti.

Thanks for reading,

1 comment:

  1. Dear Captain Schmoe,
    This is truly excellent and helps me see the logistic challenges better than before. Like you, I wish them luck and safety on this grave mission.

    Thanks for taking the time to write it out for us.

    Ann T.