Wichita, KS and Thurman, IA After Action Report

3 Responses to “Wichita, KS and Thurman, IA After Action Report”

  1. In the lessons learned section, Region VI had a similar experience regarding access. Region VI deployed an advance team ahead of the suspected outbreak. While Region 6 suffered far fewer tornadoes the only deadly outbreak occurred in Region 6 when Woodward Oklahoma got hit.

    As I was heading for a planned rally site to gather up volunteers to head up to Region VII to assist in Wichita, KS I was close to the town when it got hit. In fact I had to pause in my response to let the storm pass over me.

    I arrived in Woodward approximately 2-3 hours after the twister hit the town and was passed through to the EOC/staging area where I linked up with volunteer firefighters preparing to begin methodical (2nd) searches of the disaster area.

    I provided them with some quick lessons in how to safely search a damaged structure, how to protect themselves from from common urban disaster hazards, grid marking and other thumbnail sketch lessons on urban search and rescue (US&R).

    Because I deployed to the town with my technical rescue gear I went out with one of the teams at approximately 7 AM with a multi-discipline strike team made up of OHP trooper/medics, local law enforcement, heavy rescue specialist, firefighters, gas/utility workers and an ambulance crew.

    During those operations, the first house I entered had an active gas leak, I identified and alerted other strike team members to. We did not find any casualties, but pour presence was a relief to many of the victims who were in visible state of shock.

    However, though I had gained the rest of the team access to the site when i arrived. A changing security situation and much more compressed damage area that initially though meant the rest of the Region 6 advance team was not able to access the disaster area.

    Overall in post-deployment discussions with other members of the advance team this is what we general concluded.

    1. Deploy with what you need.
    2. When you have permission, run with it.
    3. Scout/Advance teams need freedom of movement and the ability to exercise initiative inside of well defined mission goals.
    4. Selection of a team leader can have a huge impact on success. The TL selected gave his all but was unfamiliar with many of TR’s procedures and this caused some friction with members who had been on previous deployments.
    6. Tethering and mobile hotspots allow vastly improved intelligence gathering abilities. Running two laptops and multiple smart phones we were able to stay abreast of the storms and track developing threats. This allowed us to move proactively which in turn contributed to me being in the right spot at the right time.
    7. Deploying an advance team from Arkansas to Oklahoma made the best use of the assets in Region 6 at the time, but state based sub regional responses would be more effective if they can be developed to meet the immediate needs. First they would be faster unless deployed hours ahead of time like we were. Two, they would be more cost effective. Three, on our way home Arkansas had a tornado warning not too far from our homes. Had Arkansas suffered a tornado disaster we would have been caught out of position and unable to respond effectively.

    Some closing thoughts (personal), as a search and rescue advocate and given TR’s knack for ending up with a US&R missions, there is a need to develop a US&R program/ standards and to implement them before tragedy strikes. TR is filled with volunteers who are possessed of a wide variety of skill sets, common sense and quick wits but they often lack the specific hazards awareness needed for safe US&R work.

  2. Doug McPhail says:

    In regards to the neighborhoods covered in Wichita. The homeowners there are still quite grateful to this day. Many of them do remember the team rolling through and send there thanks.

  3. William says:

    Jason, this is great feedback!

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