Meeting the needs of first-responder families during a disaster
Twenty years before Hurricane Katrina, former U.S. Deputy Fire Administrator Charlie Dickinson and others advocated the importance of developing a dependent care program. They wrote: “During a storm or disaster event, firefighters will be concerned for their families. They want to know they’re safe, reassure and help them. They have to do it at a time that as a first responder their services are needed more then at any other time by the community. Yet their thoughts may not be on the job but with their family. The chances for poor performance, an accident — or even abandonment of duty sharply increase.”
That statement is as true today, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, as it was then. When weather causes severe damage and prompts evacuations, first responders face a dilemma: job or family. Fire departments ask their members to leave their families at the most demanding — and potentially life-threatening — times of their lives. The problem is compounded when the department recalls off-duty personnel to supplement staffing during catastrophic situations for potentially days or weeks. Spouses often feel like single parents, left to face the impending crisis alone.
Read the entire story in FIRE CHIEF, our sister publication.