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Safety First!

Rarely does an issue of EMS Magazine go by without some editorial content focused on improving the safety of EMS personnel. Since the horrific events of September 11, 2001, we have published a considerable number of articles on ensuring personnel safety during terrorism response. A recent report from the RAND Corporation and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), goes a step further in recommending the development of a cadre of highly trained public safety managers who can lead coordination between agencies to protect the safety of personnel.

These managers would be recruited from local response organizations and would have a broad understanding of disaster situations, as well as expertise in safety management during multi-agency response. They would be trained to recognize safety hazards during a disaster response. In addition, RAND also recommends incorporating safety and health issues into joint disaster exercises and training.

Problems of protecting emergency responders were recognized in the days following the World Trade Center attacks, where ad hoc arrangements were in place to coordinate worker safety. If such arrangements had been incorporated into preparedness planning, safety management on scene would have been more efficient and effective, note the RAND researchers.

Recognizing that change in public safety moves at almost geologic speed, the researchers emphasize that all levels of government need to be involved in the implementation of this safety plan, along with buy-in from public safety agencies. Serving as an advisor, the safety manager would not be able to overrule the incident commander, a factor that may increase support for the system.

But will politics hamper this suggestion before it even comes to fruition? Do you think your chiefs and administrators would go along with a plan to bring in safety advisors to their disaster? We welcome your thoughts on this topic.


In the meantime, this month’s issue of EMS Magazine offers comprehensive coverage of disaster drill planning. In Louis Bruhnke’s article, Disaster Exercises: Avoiding a Train Wreck, which starts on page 65, agency cooperation is key to the success of an Argentine disaster drill, with smooth communications leading to a positive outcome. Will Vaughan provides a snapshot view of disaster drill planning in Mass-Casualty Exercise Design for EMS Agencies on page 59, while Gary Wiemokly, in Tabletop Technology on page 71, recommends revisiting tabletop drills through creating three-dimensional city models. We hope these articles will assist you in developing your own disaster drills, and we encourage readers to submit reports on how their own “dummy disasters” play out.

For more information on the RAND report, visit

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