The Case For Credentialing – The Argument


As discussed in the last post, there are those who are against credentialing, for their own reasons.  Because I have had plenty of discussions about the subject, I think I have the discussions channeled into four groups (and if you have a different argument, let me know, because I don't want to miss anything on the subject).  I plan to talk about each of these in a little more depth, but I wanted to at least put the parameters of the argument out there.

First, we have the genuine thing, the spontaneous bystander, who sees a need for action, then does something about it.  The discussion I have heard so far from this camp is that there should be nothing that would stand in the way of people who just have a desire to help their neighbors and do the right thing.  Quarantelli discusses the social aspects of emergent response from spontaneous bystanders in Katrina, but also in the Guadalajara gasoline spill and fire.  Plain ol' people like every other neighbor you ever had saved lives, and were not agents of the government, had no training, and only did so in the effort to help others.  There's something very beautiful in that, but call me skeptical, I see a lot of response from people who claim that is their motive, but I'm not seeing that altruism coming out when they're out operating the video camera or taking souvenirs, rather than manning a sand-bag line.  More about THAT kind of person later.

We also have the disaffected group/person I call the "outsider".  Having been one on a few occasions, I can certainly empathize with their cause, but I don't necessarily sympathize with their way of handling things all the time.  Often, these are people who have a lot of training, or maybe come from somewhere where they had a lot of training and experience, and the place they are now in life won't make room to allow them in.  There are dozens of reasons we will discuss, but there are also some issues regarding the credentialing side of things that would STRENGTHEN their position if they were in fact, truly qualified but being marginalized.

Then there are those who are currently the jurisdictional responder but are afraid the light of truth will expose that their organization/agency is not following industry standards, or that they are not ready, or are failing in any number of reasons.  These people really don't have much sympathy from me in regard to their argument against credentialing.  However, there might be some discussion that merits a look.  I'll reserve my judgement for now.

And finally, there are the thrill and glory seekers.  They might be there for the attention, they might be there for the notch in their gun, or they may be there to profit by defrauding the response community.  So as of now, this is where I stand and these are the arguments I want to discuss at first.  There are in some, compelling ideas.  There are in the others, no possible way you'll be able to get me to support their theory.  But we'll talk about them and I'd love to get your thoughts on the subject.  See you in a few.


  • John Clark says:

    Why does it seem like every time we go to a disaster, there are dozens of dog teams running all over the place? Who certifies these people?

  • Rescue911 says:

    Good Samaritan laws take their name from a story told by Jesus as contained in Luke 10:25-37, which recounts the aid given by a traveller to a person in need who had been beaten and robbed by bandits. While this traveller (a Samaritan) had no national, cultural, or religious affiliation to the injured man (in the story, assumed to be a Jew, with whom the Samaritans had had a long history of enmity), in compassion he aided the injured man, and did all in his power to ensure his welfare and recovery.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • Rescue911 says:

    The Good Samaritan is only protected of course if he or she does not so something stupid and we know you can’t fix stupid, right ? There will always be a need for the Good Samaritan.

  • LRL says:

    Very interesting blog. What do you think the biggest hurdle is for credentialing, and why?

    To me it seems very clear cut – particularly when the training guidelines and certification programs are being developed by the experts in each field. National groups comprising the best of the best help define the standards. What is so distasteful or onerous about this, for those with arguments against credentialing?

    Its similar to a doctor being identified and certified – a person who takes courses in bermuda to become a “doctor” isn’t recognized as one in the US until he/she passes a standardized test, recognized in the US, and receives the proper identification.

    From dealing with some of this over the course of a few years, my opinion is two fold: 1) the wild west “attitude” and reigning it in, in the name of public safety, and 2) lack of education on what is, and has been, defined as the accepted standards for training and identification (e.g. credentialing).

    I’m interested to see the rest of your argument!

  • truck6alpha says:

    Well, John, that’s a good question. I mentioned the one in our neigborhood (literally) and then there’s another in upstate SC called STARR. In both cases we have tried to get these people to talk to use because frankly, in my limited amount of canine experience (canines and communications are voodoo disciplines to me) I have been consistently reassured that a live-find canine isn’t the same as a cadaver canine. If it were, I’ve been told, that would be a hell of a dog. But what makes it even better is when they say this dog will also find your missing pet.

    So if this is the case, what is the dog tracking when we’re out on a real live pile? Has he hit on a live person? Is it a deceased victim? Is it Fluffy? Or is it a t-bone?

    I don’t know who all the “certifying” agencies are out there, but given the fly-by-night nature of some of these guys, I’ll just stick with the pros I am sure about- people like Theresa McPherson, Jim Bastan, Roxanne Dunn, and Debra Burnett, as well as the people from my task force who I trust implicitly.

    But I’ll talk more about this in my next post anyway. Thanks.

  • Freddie M. Bell says:

    You’ve had some great threads about this subject; I’ve spent lots of time reading (and re-reading) them in order to formulate my responses for you. You’ll probably see me posting in the other threads. Maybe this can help make my responses more clear than if I were to make a single response covering all the thoughts you’ve presented.

    First, here’s my take on bystanders: they’re extremely valuable. Here’s how I can see the value of bystanders during a hypothetical hurricane scenario: In many cases, bystanders can make rescues and/or offer assistance well before the arrival of professional rescuers. For example, how many people pull neighbors from collapsed structures and offer first aid after hurricanes?? After hurricanes, how many live people do professional rescuers remove from collapsed structures? The bystander happens to be in the right place at the right time to offer assistance which, otherwise, may not arrive for quite some time. Also, after your arrival, these citizens can be extremely valuable to you. They can provide intelligence (how many stayed? how many lived in that house?) and physical labor for moving equipment through/across downed trees, etc.

    People want to help. As the incident commander at this incident, I can assist people with their desire to help by assigning tasks for them (and help me control them) and assist my company(s) by using the company’s higher skills and training for other purposes while the bystanders help with physically moving equipment to needed locations.

    As for credentialing bystanders? A system for “credentialing” these people has existed for several years. Unfortunately, our county emergency management organizations (in SC) haven’t been very succesful in publicizing, organizing, training, and/or using Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). Having residents organized and trained to assist themselves and their neighbors during and after an emergency? What a concept!

    The glory hounds? Like you, I detest the idiots. I am angered by having to dedicate my valuable time to dealing with the idiots when I could be more focused on the incident. I have no mercy for jerks like you mentioned.

  • Mick Mayers says:

    Freddie, et al;

    Thanks for the comments. In regard to the bystander response, I’m dying to find a report written by Quarantelli on spontaneous bystander response to the Guadalajara gasoline explosion- the link I put on here doesn’t have the paper he wrote but some references to the research. It was a great paper that I have on pdf someplace, but can’t find it on the internet anymore. I’ll keep looking and if I can find it, I’ll put it up for reading.

    Thanks again for your insight.


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