Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Italy's FEMA arrives in L'Aquila within 8 hours


by: Lou Angeli

L’AQUILA, Italy (April 7, 2009) -- Nearly 5 DAYS since a 6.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the Abruzzo city of L'Aquila, rescuers are continuing to search for victims, who may be trapped deep in the debris of a university dorm.

The death toll has climbed past 250, another 50 citizens are missing, and 2000 have been injured, some critically. The Ministry of the Interior reports that 15,000 structures have been completely demolished, and the number of homeless is placed at 30,000.

To make a tragic situation even worse, the area has been hit with dozens of aftershocks, the most recent registering a 5.6 magnitude.

Unlike disasters here in the states, the press won’t be reporting on delays in emergency personnel and supplies. Why? They were on location within hours. How did Italian emergency responders mount such a quick response? Simple. The lack of red tape and a damned good preplan.

According to David Alexander, who teaches emergency planning in Europe, the Italian government designed their Disaster Response plan around a "key component found in every province and locale"…the Fire-Rescue service or the Vigili Del Fuoco.

The Vigili Del Fuoco is much different than fire departments here in the states. In Italy, the fire-rescue service is a single, national entity and is paramilitary in design.. So whether a firefighter is assigned to a small station in the Alps, or working a big city like Naples, tactics, command and apparatus are identical.

Comapre that to the states where we have 31,000 agencies with 31,000 different commanders. And even though most of America's Fire-Rescue-EMS service have integrated Incident Command into the operations, our system continues to focus on mitigation of the incident, then followed by caring for those who are homeless.

“In America, we instruct our citizens to be prepared to remain self sufficient for at least 72 hours.” say Dr. Francis Howard of Columbia University. “That concept proved itself to be a disaster during the hours and days following Katrina.”

“When the disaster presents itself in Italy,’ says Howard, ‘the unified response system kicks in immediately.”

The Italian system, known as the Augustus Plan, takes our Incident Command system a step further by automatically integrating municipal emergency agencies – like police and EMS – into the Fire-Rescue system.

The most interesting component of the entire system is Augustus’ ability to place thousands of well-trained, disaster responders on the scene in just a few hours. When the quake struck the Abruzzo region early Monday morning, the Italian goverment declared a national emergency thus authorizing the Civil Protection Department to mobilize a substantial -- and immediate -- response. More than 100 volunteer search and rescue teams were deployed, some of whom assisted in the search and rescue effort, but most of whom began to erect temporary housing, provide meals and tend to the immediate needs of the citizens.
On the Vigili del Fuoco national website you can follow emergency operations in L’Abruzzo with updates on an hourly basis. As of 0600 hours 9 April 2009, the following resources and staffing were operating at dozens of disaster scenes.

- Command has divided the disaster region into four sectors, from 4 base camps.
- 169 senior officers
- In addition to 1000 firefighters on scene, another 2650 are responding.
- 90 specialized recovery teams from 6 surrounding regions
- 48 Volunteer First-Responder Teams of 100
- 6 Urban Search and Rescue Teams
- There are 1,000 Engines or Tankers on scene.
- 24 Ladder Trucks
- 30 Rescue Vehicles
- 6 Cranes
- 4 Bell 412 helicopters
- 6 Agusta EMS helicopters
- 3 Satellite Transmission Vehicles

You can keep track of the progress online at the National Corps of Vigili del Fuoco website.

1 comment:

Jayne said...

I am a student at ASU Polytechnic Campus in Arizona, USA, a few hours from the Grand Canyon. We have an online Emergency Management Graduate program, etmonline.asu.edu, where I am working with Campus Public Emergency Communications. In the USA our Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has several independent study programs for first responders and emergency management personnel.
The blog you have written goes hand in hand with our ICS 400 training which I am currently enrolled in. The response efforts as you describe are phenomenal. The videos I have seen show a great sense of teamwork and effort. It is great the response personnel are so easily placed on the scene, with the resources they need available within a short period of time. Thank you so much, for sharing your photos on this blog, as we can also see the efforts the Italian “Vigili del Fuoco” is expending.
Blessings to all those involved in this disaster and the recovery efforts.