Thursday night, Continental Communter Flight 3407 crashed into a house less than two blocks from the firehouse in Clarence Center, New York. This incident killed 50 people and injured several others. It also destroyed a Dash 8 aircraft and the home into which it crashed.
How many of us have heard the phrase "It can't happen here"? This can be heard when firefighters and medics don't want to take NIMS training or to consider EOC or logistics roles because "That's not what I signed up to do". It may also be heard at budget meetings when elected officials or bean counters don't want to fund a capability like a Heavy Rescue vehicle or Mass Casualty unit. The "It can't happen here syndrome" is nothing but denial, plain and simple. No one wants a major, multifatality incident to hit their community, but those incidents can and do happen literally anywhere that aircraft fly, school buses drive, or people live.
Fire and emergency response can be boiled down to four critical elements; Planning, Budget, Capability, and Organization. Your agency should plan for all-hazards response to disasters and major incidents, as well as day-to-day responses. You should budget for the additional capability you need. The additional emergency services funding in the federal stimulus plan should help. You should work to increase your agency's (and your region's) capability in terms of manpower, equipment, vehicles, and other key resources. If your department can't do it alone, work up joint capabilities with your neighbors. Organization is key - train everyone in NIMS, set up disaster plans with your neighbors and other emergency agencies, and plan for operational periods.
Sometimes all you can do is to stop a bad situation from getting worse. It looks as if the Clarence Center VFD, its neighbors, and the other agencies that responded Thursday night did just that.
Brothers and Sisters, thanks for your dedication, hard work, and for working together to keep things from getting worse.
And remember, denial only works when it's a river in Egypt.