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It is January in a northern U.S. city, and temperatures plummet below zero each evening. A terrible ice storm causes power outages throughout the region, and travel and mobility are nearly impossible. Falling trees have destroyed homes and blocked roads throughout the area. National Guard units have been mobilized at the direction of the governor to assist trapped individuals in need of critical help.
- Requests for help include the following:
- Immediate medical attention
- Transportation to shelters for the elderly, infants, and other vulnerable populations
- Emergency evacuation from dangerous conditions, such as house fires and nursing homes without generators.
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In addition to all of this, a train carrying chemicals derails because of icy tracks near the city’s port, which is adjacent to a lake. Wind blows dense chemical vapors toward a populated area, and liquid spills from a container car. The train’s crew members are injured and temporarily unable to provide details regarding the train’s contents. Responding law enforcement officials immediately report headaches, nausea, and lightheadedness. Firefighters and hazardous material specialists wear protective gear.
Given these circumstances, consider the shifting roles of the following organizations:
- A hospital has been operating at 70% capacity because of a heavier-than-usual flu season. The emergency room has dozens of prospective patients waiting. This hospital is closest to the derailment site and is expected to respond to any surge in demand. Within 30 minutes of the derailment, crew members, police officers, and others report to the hospital with various injuries and complaints. This hospital has taken part in mass-casualty exercises and has developed response plans for treating victims of hazmat incidents.
- An electrical utility company has had maintenance crews working constantly to clear debris that caused power lines to fall and to restore power as quickly as possible. Crews are also managing the distribution of the limited power that is available to facilities deemed critical by the electrical consortium’s priority list.
- A local middle school is designated as a shelter for displaced persons during emergencies like this ice storm. Cots, blankets, food, and various sundries are provided in the school’s gymnasium. School will likely be cancelled the next day because the buses cannot reach students. The school plans to put its distance-learning plan into effect so that students can retrieve assignments and instructions from the school’s Web site during the closure.
- A large discount store has its employees assemble supplies for the shelter. This store has an agreement with the community to reduce costs by at least 20% for shelter representatives or people with special vouchers. The store also pledges to deliver the requested items.
Looking at these few entities, it is clear that each must be flexible and responsive toward the community and contribute as they are able. They also require contingency plans, standard operating procedures, or memorandums of agreement to aid them in coordinating with partners and putting their crisis response actions into effect.
It is now 3 weeks after that incident. Select 1 of the entities that were indicated in the scenario, and assume the role of its administrator. Also, adopt the perspective that your group contributed capably to the response activities that day; however, you have a number of recommendations and requests for the city to improve future response efforts.