Self Dispatch or not

Self Dispatch or not

I have found this very informative for all Emergency Response personal.

 Take a moment and read it.

Self Dispatch or not

Should Volunteers self-dispatch?

Most volunteers are active in their community and are tuned-in to what is happening around them. This puts us in a position to sometimes want to respond to the emergency.  Unless you are the first source of intelligence about incidents you and others may be in harm way by self dispatching to the scene.  Responding to the scene also makes you and the group you represent look bad to the professional responders.  Most of us have heard stories about volunteers who just appeared at an emergency incident scene only to be chased away by the professionals.  Often the story concludes with the summary that volunteers are not welcomed by that particular emergency group.

One thing they do is prohibiting volunteers from going to the site of an incident unless approved by a responsible person, such as the EOC., Police, or Fire.  This simple policy in many emergency communications plans is well accepted for several good reasons. Self-dispatch is not a practice for professional responders either.

In the January 1987 crash of the Amtrak Colonial train near Baltimore MD, there were so many fire, EMS and law enforcement who responded directly to the scene in their personal cars that subsequent apparatus and equipment could not get down the road and to the scene itself!

In New York on September 11 2001, many off-duty fire fighters traveled to the World Trade Center as additional personnel on fire apparatus. Many responded to their stations, while others traveled direct to the scene by public conveyance. Many private ambulances self-dispatched to the general area, which impeded access by other equipment.

To a lesser extent, this same self-dispatch occurred in Washington DC on September 11 2001. In both cases, most of these responders did so without the knowledge or permission of their own organization, and without the knowledge of the on-scene Incident Commander. According to the after action reports, this greatly complicated the exercise of command, increased the risks faced by the bona fide responders, and exacerbated the challenge of accountilitaby.

To control the corresponding risks, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) discourage the practice of self-dispatch among emergency response personnel to emergency incidents without notification or request.

This policy reads in part:
Uncontrolled and uncoordinated arrival of resources at emergencies cause significant accountability issues as a result of personnel freelancing and creating additional safety risks to fire fighters, civilians and others who are operating within the parameters of the incident action plan. Chaos at the scene occurs, creating additional safety risks because these companies or individuals are not aware of the overall strategic plan.

Further, un-requested emergency units and emergency personnel at incidents disrupt the accountability and incident management system.

An incident management system requires that a formal structure is utilized to determine the needs of an incident. The needs of the incident are in most cases directly related to personnel and equipment. When resources show up that have not been requested, the incident management system fails. Unplanned resources in many cases block roads, create traffic jams, restrict access and ultimately affect the safety of those fire fighters who are operating at the scene by denying them needed resources. Freelancing of personnel and fire companies adversely impact incident management systems and require that the Incident Commander assign more personnel to control and coordinate these resources that were not requested.

The ultimate risk is to emergency personnel when uncoordinated resources and freelancing by individuals and crews, create additional risks that are unnecessary and could be avoided. Lives are at risk when fire companies or personnel leave their local communities, thereby reducing the level of protection and support should an emergency occur, or when other fire fighters perform contradictory operators or interfere with assigned units performing their duties.

The policy concludes with the encouragement for local fire chiefs, elected officials, managers and labor leaders to develop written policy to control emergency personnel from self-dispatch to an emergency event unless requested by the Incident Commander.

The occurrence and resulting problems with self-dispatch are too well known among professional responders. As volunteers seeks to be recognized and valued as a well trained, disciplined, resourceful, and responsive group by professional emergency responders, we should demonstrate the same restraint and not self-dispatch ourselves.