Who does what in a disaster
As soon as a disaster occurs, a disaster management team is formed. This consists of the local mayor and representatives of the fire service, medical and municipal services, police, army and other public services.
The team takes key decisions on how to respond to the disaster. All these decisions are recorded in a logbook. The roles and responsibilities of each of the parties represented are described below.
The mayor is responsible at the administrative level for the smooth running of the response effort. He/she convenes the representatives of the various public services who make up the disaster management team. In view of the mayor’s administrative responsibility, the municipal council may call him/her to account for the overall management of the response effort.
The fire service is the linchpin in disaster response. The fire chief is charged with the operational management of the response effort. Everything that occurs in the disaster area falls under his/her authority. As a member of the disaster management team, the fire chief puts the team’s decisions into practice. He/she also coordinates the work of the emergency services. In the disaster area, the fire service’s first duty is to save people and animals. Firefighters also put out fires, of course, and conduct tests to find out whether any hazardous substances have been released.
Regional accident and disaster medical teams
Anyone injured in a disaster will require medical assistance as soon as possible. Ambulance paramedics will usually provide first aid and stabilise the injured so that they can be transported to hospital.
The police will ensure that the fire and ambulance services can do their job. They will cordon off the disaster area, manage the traffic, and sometimes set up a safety zone around the disaster area. If victims are difficult to identify, the police will deploy the disaster identification team, consisting of experts convened on an ad hoc basis. The disaster identification team is part of the Dutch Police Services Agency (KLPD).
The Ministry of Defence can deploy military personnel to respond to a disaster. Around 4,600 of them are available to do so. Their duties include evacuating people.
Behind the scenes, several municipal services play an important role in disaster response, especially when it comes to the after-effects. If whole streets or neighbourhoods have to be evacuated, for instance, the municipality is responsible for the residents’ immediate welfare. Municipal services will assist in other practical ways, such as providing food and temporary shelter; they may also offer psychological care. In addition, the municipality will register the victims and may help them with uninsured damage.
Which services take part in the response effort will depend on the type of disaster. In the case of flooding caused by burst dykes or heavy rainfall, the water authorities will play a role. If a disaster occurs off the coast, the Coastguard will be involved. But other services will also often take part. The Red Cross cares for the injured in disasters. Canine search-and-rescue teams are deployed in the search for victims trapped under rubble. And the Salvation Army provides victims and emergency workers with soup and sandwiches.