Public emergencies services are provided by the local governments in every city in the United States that has a tax base large enough to support financing such services. In areas where towns are too small to create their own emergency service agencies, the responsibility for providing such services falls to the corresponding county or commonwealth. The three primary emergency service functions provided by local governments are police, fire and emergency medical services. All these emergency services have protecting the safety of people and property as their primary goal.
Primary Emergency Services
The duties of the police department are to provide for the safety of citizens in the community. They also must take both a proactive and reactive part in reducing crime in their jurisdiction. Police are also often dispatched as backup and crowd control for the fire department. The duties of a community’s fire department are to provide trained firefighters to deal with fire, to rescue victims of fire, and to determine if the crime of arson has been committed when a fire is out. In some communities, this service is known as Fire and Rescue. Both Police and Fire Departments also take an active part in community education programs through visits to classrooms, hosting school field trips at their stations and talking to community groups about home safety and fire prevention.
Emergency medical services in many jurisdictions are included in Fire and Rescue departments. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) with special training in emergency medicine and triage treatment staff a transport vehicle outfitted with the medical equipment they need to perform their duties and transport a patient to the hospital if necessary. Communities without EMTs provide ambulance and staff from a local medical center to handle medical emergencies.
Public Safety Management coordinates and administrates all the services and resources that provide for the security and safety of the community in which they operate. This requires strategic planning, inter-agency coordination, preparedness planning and strategies, and strong fiscal management skills. The Emergency Communications 9-1-1 Center in each community is the centralized point for answering all 9-1-1 calls to the public safety departments. From this center, all the emergency services are assigned and dispatched from the various public safety departments by radio call. The center operates 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Other Emergency Services/Civil Emergencies Services
There are additional emergency services provided by the three primary branches. These include urban search and rescue efforts, such as those needed when there is a construction site cave-in or a building collapse, and technical rescues, such as the rescue of a high rise window washer on collapsed scaffolding. Bomb disposal units are sometimes needed. Hazmat crews are also necessary for dangerous spills of hazardous materials.
Civil emergency services are provided by organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army in the aftermath of home fires and for purposed of disaster relief. Emergency blood supplies are provided by the Red Cross and emergency food, housing and other social services are provided by both. It is typical for a designated medical center in the community to host a Poison Control Center. The local government also provides an Animal Control unit.
State Level Emergency Services and Management
Just as the Federal government has FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to coordinate emergency services in the event of a national disaster and/or emergency, each individual state has its state emergency management agency to do the same on a state level. In the event of a multi-county emergency or disaster, the state EMA becomes the coordinating agency for all the various primary emergency services in the local counties and cities. This assures that all needs are covered and services are not duplicated. The goals of every state EMA are communication, cooperation, collaboration and coordination.
Public safety officials use warning systems to alert the public to the threat of natural or man-made disasters/dangers. Communities may offer Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) about extreme or threatening weather in the area, AMBER alerts or Presidential Alerts during a national time of emergency. (To learn what alerts are available in a particular area, go to the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System Authorities website.)
The AMBER Alert is a national emergency alert system that works to recover abducted and exploited children. The plan uses the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to interrupt broadcasts and regular programming with information that could help recover the victim. Information is also broadcast on cell phones, in airports and on electronic signs. AMBER stands for America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response.
Some communities and states have their own particular alerts. Some examples are Mattie’s Call, an alert for missing elderly or disabled persons; Blue Alert, an alert for a suspect who killed or injured a law enforcement officer; and Kimberly’s Call, an alert for a violent criminal who is at large and a danger to the public. To learn about the various state-specific alerts, check online with the state Bureau of Investigation’s website to find out what alerts the state might have.
The Role of Community Water Systems in Emergency Services
Two basic and critical human needs are drinking water and sanitation wastewater services. Water utilities play an important role in providing these to the community. To do so, it has its own plans and mechanisms in place for exchanging area-specific resources as necessary during an emergency. One example is assuring the fire department has enough water for fire hydrants by diverting the strength of some other area’s flow temporarily.
Public Health Emergency Services
The Ebola epidemic in Africa and its spread in isolated cases to the United States have raised awareness of the possible threat of national public health emergencies. In a national health crisis Federal Response Coordination and the CDC (Communicable Disease Center) would coordinate with all state, tribal and territorial agencies that are responsible for assessing, identifying and prioritizing requirements then activating services and resources. States may request Federal assistance and FEMA issues Mission Assignments to support those requests. States may also request and offer state-to-state assistance. Homeland Security’s assignments are directed to the Emergency Management Group (EMG). The goal is to provide resources everywhere they are needed.
The public emergency services provided in U.S. cities are designed to provide for the protection and safety of life and property for all the residents of the community. Emergency service managers strive to coordinate these services so that they are used at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. When disaster strikes, they are prepared to work with state and federal agencies to meet the needs of their citizens in any way necessary to serve the public good.
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