20. Responder Safety

When professionals respond to an emergency their top priority is generally to be able to go home when the emergency is over – in other words, responder safety is number one!  A perfect example from this week’s news was the local tree trimmer who made contact with high voltage lines and was critically injured.  Any attempt to rescue him before power was disconnected might have seriously harmed several rescuers without improving his odds of survival.

Activated ARES members must think along similar lines.  You must weigh any risks to yourself against the possible benefits to others.  Red Cross First Aid training teaches us to survey the scene of any accident prior to attempting assistance.  One injured person might require the assistance of three paramedics and a medic unit, but one injured person plus an injured would-be rescuer would require double those resources.

Disaster areas are inherently dangerous places.  Many years ago two Red Cross volunteers I knew were assaulted while serving in the US Virgin Islands.  One, a retired police officer, required stitches!  They were out after dark and were not paying attention to their surroundings.

Today my Red Cross chapter was asked by one of our village governments to help two campers who reportedly lost most of their possessions in the thunderstorm.  We offered some services, and the village agreed to transport the pair to a local motel for us.  But when the transportation turned out to be a police car and the officer, as a safety measure, insisted on viewing the contents of the bags they had saved, the pair declined and started walking rapidly out of the county!

Paid or volunteer, responder safety should be number one.