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Next Disaster: Ready to Respond?

NCJ Number
Proceedings Volume: 127 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2001 Pages: 48-51
W. Russell Webster
Date Published
September 2001
4 pages
This article outlines the top 10 lessons learned about responding to an at-sea disaster from the New England Coast Guard commands that directed major portions of at-sea operations during both the JFK, Jr. and EgyptAir Flight 990 recovery operations.
After summarizing the events of the JFK, Jr. and EgyptAir recovery operations, the article identifies and discusses the major lessons learned. First, foster relationships among emergency response agencies before disaster strikes. Second, predesignate and wire unified command posts (UCPs); the predesignation of the UCPs enables the majority of local and State response agencies to know automatically where to meet to begin making incident action plans. Third, recognize at least four separate components that must be provided during a major response to an at-sea disaster that involves many lives; these components are a secure command post or a site to establish a mobile command post to coordinate on-water rescue and recovery efforts, a secure command post for investigative and reconstructive purposes, a comfortable location for the victims' families, and a central location to accommodate the media. Fourth, make the Incident Command System the common language and architecture of disaster response. Fifth, prepare to manage offers of technical assistance. Sixth, monitor fatigue among personnel. Seventh, manage the media. Eighth, regularly inform the victims' families about the status of rescue operations. Ninth, manage the mental health needs of rescuers. Tenth, compile lessons learned from such operations and disseminate them to other organizations likely to be involved in similar operations. 11 notes