Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery

Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery

First response

Media coverage

Whenever disaster strikes a city or community, its devastating effects dominate the news. Footage and images of properties damaged, distress of victims fills TV screens and airwaves. Sometimes the emergency can remain in the news for more than one or two weeks, which means a long-term coverage.

Evolution of emergency response and disaster recovery

Here is the history of preparing for and responding to natural or human-made disasters in the United States. It dates back to the time when the US was born as a nation, but the process started taking organizational shape in the 20th Century. Prior to this time, cases of disasters were handled “case by case,”. This is mostly backed by the Congressional Act providing different compensation to the victims who suffered from disasters. Examples of disasters that saw government emergency response were Portsmouth, NH Christmas Fire of 1808 and the very devastating Galveston Hurricane and Flood of 1990.

Pres. Jimmy Carters portrait

Pres. Jimmy Carter

After a series of government efforts to respond to the disasters, they saw the formation of different agencies. From the 1940s to 1970s, President Carter signed an executive order that merges all Federal Agencies. Those dealing with disaster preparedness and response issues were placed into the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1979.

From that time till date, all disaster issues and emergency response are handled by FEMA.

Phases of Disaster Recovery and Emergency Response

Each disaster that happens is a unique occurrence that demands careful assessment. Bearing in mind that response and recovery may take time, it is critical to creating a strategic plan. These responses are aimed at identifying and helping the most vulnerable and severely affected people.

Although the stages of recovery don’t always follow a precise cut-out procedure, below are several phases that unfold. This is as affected communities start to rebuild their lives after disasters.

Critical Search and Rescue

Rescuers searching for survivors in rubble

Search and Rescue

Search and Rescue is always the first disaster recovery phase that takes place after a disaster has struck. It usually requires a fast response which can last into hours or even days to save lives in imminent danger. After a few days, this phase traditionally elapsed to pave the way for providing support for survivors. An example is the search and rescue mission undertaken by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

Prompt Emergency Relief

The second phase of the emergency response and disaster recovery is the provision of emergency relief. It begins immediately after the disaster has occurred and when search and rescue operations have come to a close. The emergency relief phase brings foods, water, clothing, medicine and shelter to surviving victims of the disaster. It gives prompt and serious medical attention to people with severe injuries.

Emergency relief can go on for a long time or may end abruptly. It depends on the nature and scope of damage caused by the disaster.

Quick or Early Recovery

When it comes to recovery, the population that is affected is in a better and stable condition. They have access to food and water and temporary shelter where they can cope with wind and rain. People start going about their daily activities. Children start going to school again, although classes may be held in tents or churches, etc. While the entire affected population may not have completely recovered, they have started adapting to a new way of living.

A lot of people being housed in a stadium after Hurricane Katrina disaster

Astrodome in Houston 2005. Housed 15,000 people

The early recovery phase can last for weeks, months or even some few years. This depends on the initial communities vulnerability, resources available and sense of adaptability.

Medium to long-term disaster recovery

This phase involves the construction of permanent physical structures that will replace tents, plywood shelters, and trailers. This is to mirror what used to be as they try to get back to normal. With the commencement of building permanent structures, the social foundation of community is being reinforced and strengthened. Adults now have the opportunity to improve their means of living and restore their family’s economies. Children can return to schools with permanent buildings as they build. The society is now beginning to feel stable and safe once again.

We are all first responders

Back in 2017, FEMA showed us that we are all first responders. “FEMA has a central role in both response and recovery efforts as the federal government’s coordinator of emergency management operations. But that role is often misunderstood, with FEMA being viewed as a first responder rather than an extension of state and local capabilities.” Don’t forget that as a community and individuals we can do our part.

Linda Rawson is the CEO, and Founder of DynaGrace Enterprises, (http://DynaGrace.com) which is a Women-Owned, 8(a) Minority, Small Business. She is also the author of The Minority and Women-Owned Small Business Guide to Government Contracts.

The Evolution of the Spineboard

The Evolution of the Spineboard

The Spineboard

In the beginning

Before we can talk about the evolution of something, it is imperative we understand what that thing is all about. So what is a spineboard?

A spine board (or backboard) refers to a patient handling device used in pre-hospital trauma care, specifically to provide rigid movement for patients with suspected spinal limb injuries. They are very common with ambulance staffs, ski patrollers, and lifeguards.

Historical evolution of the spineboard

Centuries ago, early men used wood slabs with straps of sinew and leather to bind and secure an injured victim. The practice evolved a bit in 1979 when men started using slabs of woods together with straps of nylon webbing as a more advanced tool.  The majority of these boards were mostly manufactured of poorly sealed, inexpensive and incomplete plywood finish. Their unprofessional designs make them look bad when used, and considering their porous nature; they also absorbed fluids.

An advanced backboard

a wooden parr backboard

Bound Tree Parr

However, a little progress was made with the introduction of the Parr Backboard which featured quality Baltic Birchwood. The board has many great layers of sealants displaying impeccably over a baby-smooth sanding job. The Parr Backboard was a custom-made product with reinforced runners, lots of handholds and strap-pin locations. One of such board is a regional favorite in the Mid-Atlantic and is called the Henley Board from Maryland,–one that still maintains innovative and sturdy head immobilizer mechanism.

Enter the Plastic Backboard

Be that as it may, the advent of the dreaded HIV led to an increase in awareness among clinical experts and the need to control infection issues. From the increased sensitivity comes Plastic Backboards which quickly turn out to be the favorite material for backboards.

Some of the early and famously used synthetic plastic backboard was Ferno’s folding backboards which feature prominently in ambulances and were very reliable in performance. Today, the company (Ferno) is still a remarkable brand making waves with their plastic backboard, with different types and style of models in one catalog.

photo of an ambulance from 1975

1975 ambulance

Earliest Plastic backboards were either one-piece boards with acrylic runners or two-piece plastic. Some of these plastic boards use ABS plastic, which is a bit heavy. However, the real game-changing technology that emboldens plastic spineboards was the inclusion of rotational molding.

By using polyurethane-foam-filled high-density shells, these two parts were lightweight but sturdy and could withstand aggressive EMS use another popular two-part composite version incorporates fiberglass rods inside a hollow plastic board.

More advanced spineboard versions

The success recorded in two-part plastic spineboards led to the construction of a three-part version.  This uses molded hollow polyethene plastic laden with polyurethane foam with carbon plastic rods. The rods enable the structure to be stronger, but with time, the board could become flexible when the rods displace the foam inside the board.

Latest spineboard evolution

A picture of EZ LIFT backboard blue with blue straps

EZ LIFT Rescue Systems Backboard

The latest evolution involves the direct placement of the rods inside the molded plastic channels, allowing them to make contact with the plastic while the board appears well padded. This latest evolution allowing the rod to touch the plastic provides for a firm bonding as well as improving wear. The method is currently being used by most boards in the market.

Contour boards are another innovative development, featuring a concave surface which provides lateral stability and comfort. The EZ Lift Rescue System and the Kemp Lifeguard AB Spineboard are typical examples of highly reliable modern designs with unique features.

From the preceding, it is safe to say that the Backboard has evolved significantly over the past two thousand years, most especially for the past 20 years.

Linda Rawson is the CEO, and Founder of DynaGrace Enterprises, (http://DynaGrace.com) which is a Women-Owned, 8(a) Minority, Small Business. She is also the author of The Minority and Women-Owned Small Business Guide to Government Contracts.

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