Monday, January 22, 2007

Homeland Security?

As you know, I'm a practicing EMT. I took my last call just a couple of hours ago...that makes something over 1,500 calls in my career. So I know a little about what happens in emergencies.

What is bothering me is that our great Department of Homeland Security seems to have done very little to prepare us medics to deal with a really big disaster...think Bird Flu, HUGE ice storm, something that either quickly overloads the hospitals or prevents people from getting there. People are going to need medical attention in their homes or wherever they're at, and they are not going to get it. But they could if the government had its act together.

We do have a lot of trained medical professionals in our country, but they are not set up to deal with some major emergencies like the ones I describe above. To deal with these, we need lots and lots of semi-professional people who can do the simpler interventions that can save lives in mass quantities.

What are these interventions? Administering innoculations...think about having to give flu shots to a million people in five days or less in Rochester, NY. Starting IV's...think about having thousands of people being severely dehydrated by a nasty flu. Delivering IV glucose...diabetics unable to get to hospitals, paramedics overloaded by a huge ice storm. You get the idea. There are many thousands of EMT's in ambulance companies and fire departments who would be happy to sign up for this kind of training, and take the training on their own time.

Homeland Security is spending billions on communications equipment and all kinds of centralized stuff that the bureaucrats love, and they play out all kinds of scenarios about how they will manage disasters - like New Orleans. But what they don't seem to get is that accomplishing the objective - beating the disaster - requires many, many "trained feet on the street". There is an immense amount that could be done, relatively inexpensively, to get our country much better prepared to deal with a massive medical emergency. But I've heard exactly nothing about this topic from anyone in government.

If you want to see what the government is doing, go to Google and call up "NIMS IS-700", the introduction class for the National Incident Management System. That's what people at my level are being asked to learn - a bunch of high level organizational gobbledegook that may be useful to people at some stage of disaster management much higher than ours. Nothing practical here, that's for sure! But it sure does make the high level bureaucrats feel important.

I say, "Cut the crap, Homeland Security!" Start thinking about how you are really going to deliver, on the ground, the emergency services that many thousands or millions of people may need at roughly the same time. Got the picture?


ThomasLB said...

One problem with Katrina was too much "centralization."

The people who were there knew what the problems were and had ideas about how to fix them, but since Brownie was out of the loop, nobody could act.

I think they need to handle the initial surge of a disaster with an almost anarchistic approach. Flood the area with supplies (food, water, tents) and technicians, and then allow the people closest to the problem to use their own best judgment. Worry about bringing them under a central structure a few days later.

Woozie said...

I say cut Homeland Security. Manage disasters in a more decentralized manner, and then have a government agency serve solely as the middleman between the different disaster areas, and can only exert power over all the areas if absolutely necessary. Things tend to get more messed up the more groups, especially governments, get involved if you ask me.

ThomasLB said...

You haven't written yet about your march on Washington. How was it?