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Storm chasers as first responders

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  • Storm chasers as first responders


    My name is Dan Robinson. I am posting here to get advice/opinions from the emergency management/responder community on storm chasers acting in the capacity of first responders at tornado damage scenes.

    Storm chasers are frequently first on the scene of tornado damage long before professional responders arrive, and there has always been a controversy both inside and outside of the community on what our moral and legal responsibilities are in these situations. Opinions range from simply calling 911 and leaving the area/staying out of the way, to doing full-on search-and-rescue to try to assist victims.

    My initial assessment in talking with a few people involved in either CERT and official fire and EMS positions is as follows:

    - Untrained, non-equipped and solo individuals should NOT be entering a tornado damage scene due to the high risk of becoming injured and adding to the burden on professional responders. A call to 911 reporting the location and pertinent details is all that such an individual should do.

    - Storm chasers should complete CERT training and be at least minimally equipped to offer assistance at damage scenes.

    Regardless, there is still a strong contingent insisting that chasers do *something* at these scenes regardless of lack of training/equipment simply by virtue of being there first. For example, a 20-30 minute difference between a chaser's arrival and official responders' arrival can be a life or death interval for someone with a blocked airway or significant bleeding.

    I'm looking for advice from as many pros in this field as possible so I can make an informed recommendation to the chaser community. In essence, we're looking to develop a universal protocol for storm chasers in terms of minimum equipment and actions when we encounter these scenes.

    Thank you very much in advance for any advice.

    Dan Robinson
    Last edited by Dan Robinson; 03-11-2019, 04:58 PM.

  • #2
    Go through the cert class, that should give you direction.

    There is nothing that says a person cannot help.

    That was how it was in the old days. And good people still do it today.


    • #3
      Storm chasers with CERT training, CPR and First Aid, as well as basic incident command training (IS100, IS200, IS700, IS800 - all free and on-line) may be the first organized response to some portion of the involved area in a wide-ranging event.

      The area will be chaos, and someone who can bring some semblance of order to the situation could well be beneficial. Have some form of identification - vest, jacket - but be prepared to be deluged with requests for help. Have pencil and paper ready. Document, document, document.

      If you're going to take pictures, be prepared to share with authorities. And don't start posting on-line instead of rendering assistance. Maybe NWS - they generally appreciate an idea of what happened.

      That said, technical rescue is called that for a reason. As noted, we don't need more casualties.

      Remember a mantra we use in the fire service - we risk a lot to save a lot, we risk a little to save a little, but we risk nothing to save nothing.

      Training aside - consider what you're going into - injuries will be severe. A pocket first aid kit isn't going to do it. Consider having at least some trauma dressings and the like. A few tools could be handy - a couple of hand saws, prying tools, axes. Be prepared to lose them.

      There are standard markings for buildings that have been searched - if you want to take that level of responsibility. If you have confidence in your actions, though, you may save incoming crews some time searching buildings that don't need to be searched.

      A big reason for ICS knowledge is that if you have a large group (and storm chasers tend to gather), you can break into teams. Everyone has a function.

      And remember, even seasoned chasers have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the destruction at a major event.
      Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

      Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.


      • #4
        The area will be chaos. Take care.
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