I'm about to launch into a multi-part blog to discuss the merits of credentialing. Right now I am aware of some opposing arguments to the requirement that disaster response personnel have credentials, particularly when it comes to those who routinely offer their services after a disaster but are not necessarily part of a response entity.
At this time I am dealing with the multiple phone calls for information on a group calling themselves "Urban Search and Rescue", located right here in my own community. From what I have been able to tell, they were featured on a local television interview the other day and managed to get a request for assistance out there, but failed to provide a working telephone number, as well as having bad links on their webpage. When people found they could not reach this entity, I'm guessing they "googled" the terms "Hilton Head Island Urban Search Rescue" and believe it or not, that gets a few hits for me and my phone number.
When I say there's some confusion, you bet. When I tell the bewildered caller that, yes, I'm the Deputy Director of the South Carolina Urban Search and Rescue program and the Vice-Chairman of the State Urban Search and Rescue Alliance, but I have no idea who "USARK9" is or what their credentials are, you can imagine the rest of the conversation. After all, they have seen their official looking vehicles, I have heard they walk around town in official looking uniforms, and apparently, according to their website and some discussion from the media, they're doing a good job of self-deploying all up and down the coast, but I don't know who they are. I must be an idiot.
But this isn't a discussion about them; this is a discussion about how when we don't know who you are or how you got here, it makes it a little problematic when we are trying to put you to work, or eventually, trying to feed and shelter you (because invariably, these "assets" don't come with the support they need), a la Hurricanes Andrew, Floyd, Katrina, et al, the World Trade Center, and any number of disasters that happen on a fairly regular basis. It is a problem when we can't account for you, it is a problem when you can't work within a command structure, and it is a problem when we think you have one capability and it turns out that you do not. It is also a problem when uninvited guests show up and get hurt, then want compensation.
The blog will discuss my perception of the problem, opposing viewpoints as they have been made know to me, considerations and existing knowledge, and hopefully incite some discussion. As you may or may not realize, I have a pretty open mind. So don't be surprised that I agree that there is a need for spontaneous bystander rescue (although it makes me a little uneasy) and I agree that there are genuinely altruistic people and agencies out there who desire to help and have problems fitting into the picture.
Anyway, as usual, I have a lot going on, but I'll lay out the discussion further and ask you to chime in if you have something you'd like to say, and I'd expect to add the next blog in a day or so. Rome wasn't built in one blog, after all.