Think you’ll get help?

When SHTF do you think the police and fire departments will be there for you?

Two security guards had been inside of a the Romark Logistics Warehouse on the 2200-block of Danieldale, when a fire started at 1:42 a.m.  Both workers escaped from the fire without injury and called for help.

Lancaster firefighters and crews from all over the area responded.  It could have been a massive fire with flammable fiber glass insulation going up in flames.

As crews worked to get the warehouse fire under control, a house fire started at 3:11 a.m. in the 900-block of Oakbluff Drive.  A driver passing by saw the flames shooting from the roof of the vacant home.  Lancaster firefighters were tied up at the warehouse fire, so Dallas Fire Rescue responded and put out the house fire.

Granted it was a large warehouse but basically the city of Lancaster could not fight two fires at one time. How do you think they will do when there are dozens of fires or a break down like the L.A. Rodney King Riots? Do you think that a call to 911 will bring an ambulance, fire truck or police car in a major disaster?

This isn’t a knock on the fire department or the police. Far from it, it is a flat out recognition of two simple facts.

1. The city government isn’t budgeting for enough emergency services to cover the city.

2. The people in Lancaster (and most other cities) are fine with that.

Nobody wants their taxes to be sky high but the people of Lancaster (and most other cities) are not holding the Mayor and City Council accountable for spending so little on emergency services. And yes, I’m just as guilty as anyone on this.

My Town (Arlington) is a great example of this, budget is around 400 million dollars and in 2012 the fire department accounted for about 41 million dollars; just 10% of the total budget. Cut the city attorney’s office out and you can give the fire department 10% more money on the spot. Cut Parks/Recreation and Code compliance in half and you can give them a 20% increase.

But back to my original point — when the times comes that a major emergency hits, say like a tornado or riot, do you really think you can count on any city’s emergency management to help out?I’m sure they will do the best they can with what they have for as long as they can but the simple fact is there are not enough first responders out there to truly cover a major situation.
A simple review of major storms (Katrina, Ike, Sandy) shows that to be true.

So I suggest making your plans now.
What do you think?


3 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Divemedic on 12.12.12 at 07:56

    With 23 years experience and two degrees in emergency management, I I can tell you the thinking here:
    You plan for the NORMAL call volume of the locale, and maybe a bit of reserve. Planning and budgeting for every possible scenario is impossible, so emergency services sign onto “mutual aid” agreements, whereby services pledge to assist one another in times of disaster. This is really the only cost effective way to run emergency services.
    While it would be nice, as an emergency manager, to have the capability to deal with a hurricane Katrina, a major riot, or multiple large fires at once any day, the expense for that capability would exist every day. The public resents paying for fire and EMS services as it is, much less paying for even more.
    The definition of disaster is “any incident which exceeds the capabilities of the local resources that are charged with mitigating that disaster” so by definition, no service is capable of dealing with a disaster, that is why it is called a disaster.

  2. Posted by Bob S. on 12.12.12 at 07:56


    I understand and completely agree with how emergency management plans for staffing and hiring. I’m just using this to point out that in any major situation; resources will be tied up and probably unavailable.

    Now whether or not emergency planning should do things differently is another subject entirely. Arlington has approximately 360K residents, probably a little higher number of adults due to UTA, but represents a large pool of possible volunteers.
    Yet we have no volunteer fire department. We have a few reserve police officers and a few people training in Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

    So – why not do more – a lot more – to increase those numbers. Liability, insurance, training, etc are valid concerns. And from the attitude I’ve seen so is “we are the professionals, leave it to us” mentality.

    And if the city won’t plan for major situations (I’ll avoid the word disaster from now on), then it is incumbent on the individual to plan or ‘prep’ for it. That is the focus of my post…I wondered a little bit with the budget because it is stunning to see we spend 1% of our city budget on the city attorney’s office !