Flood Response “Keep your head above water”
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This year has brought record rainfall to areas of Iowa. With this much-needed rainfall has come the inevitable flooding. Some of this flooding has become quite destructive and as in the past many fire departments have been called upon to provide relief. This month I would like you to take a look at your preparation for this type of call.
Floods can come rapidly leaving little time for decision making by you or the victims. When this is the case you must rely on preplanning and training to allow for a quick and effective response. As with any emergency you must begin with the safety of the responder. Do you have the proper equipment and skill for this response? Many would be rescuers become victims when responding to swift water calls.
Establish an incident command system early. You may likely find yourself at this type of incident for an extended period. Utilization of the Incident command system is very beneficial. The second priority is rescue of the victims. This can begin with an organized evacuation plan that is in place to prevent the need of rescues. Taking the time to identify the low areas and the people at risk will speed this. Find a map of your community with contours and elevations to the foot before you find yourself in this position. Determine what the flood stage is of your nearest waterway.
If victims do need to be removed you must determine the best method. These methods could include wading, small boats, amphibious units, or large vehicles such as fire trucks and pay loaders. Whatever the method used include this in your planning.
The third priority is property conservation. Save what you can. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Using the contour/elevation map again will assist in this process. Sandbagging is one of the most common methods of protection. Take some time to research this. Youtube offers some great help. Bagging can require a great deal of volunteers and equipment. Time spent in advance preparing for this can be priceless! Do you have sand, plastic sheets, bags, etc.?
The last priority is environmental impact. City sewer systems are often the first area of concern. Drinking water is another very vulnerable area. Take a look at other hazards in your area that are exposed to flooding. Examples could be propane tanks, bulk chemicals, power transformers, etc.
As you may have already realized, there is a huge amount of items to consider for this type of response just to keep your head above water. The more time spent planning for this. The better off you will be.
Upon completion of this drill the firefighter should be able to….
• Identify area flood hazards.
• Identify area resources for water rescue.
• Develop an evacuation plan.
• Locate a map of your area that shows elevations to the foot.
• Identify resources in your area including contact numbers.
• Identify public systems at risk.
• Develop a flood response plan!
Scott Meinecke is a member of the Sheldon Volunteer Fire Department, an instructor at Northwest Iowa Community College, and field staff for the Fire Service Training Bureau. He can be contacted by email firstname.lastname@example.org