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Tuscaloosa Chief Offers Key Tips When Facing a Natural Disaster

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Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Alan Martin presented leadership advice to managers about his department's experiences at their 2011 EF4 tornado at the Pinnacle Conference in Miami Beach. Key tips for all departments and agencies to consider are:

1) Staff Big + Staff Early (Command Staff)

2) Staff 3-4 deep in critical sections (Logistics, Finance, Operations, etc.)

3) Resist sending most of your resources to the first calls coming in. Set response priorities before the tornado hits.

4) Remember that something you plan on won't be there!

5) There's no time to do anything other than REACT when the major incident (like a tornado) hits. You must plan ahead of time.

6) Social networks are invaluable to allow people to check up on each other or report in that they are trapped -- BUT Facebook also causes people to come on their own from several states away with search and rescue dogs, SCUBA divers, etc.

7) Assign lots of people to DOCUMENT.

8) Inititiate Stress Management (include CISM and clergy, early)

9) Delegate

10) Be aware the RESORCES and PEOPLE are COMING -- whether you asked for them or NOT!

11) Realize that NO ONE can do it ALL! - Especially the Mayor who tries to do lots of things.

12) Remember that "If the Leader STOPS (from fatigue or other cause) those who follow him will also STOP.

13). Remember the words of Colin Powers that "PERPETUAL OPTIMISM is a FORCE MUTIPLIER!".

14).Tuscaloosa's practice of triaging all patients every Tuesday ("Triage Tuesdays") proved VERY BENEFICIAL during this incident. Triage was second nature to the Tuscaloosa crews.

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