NEWS

I-35W Bridge Collapse Report Issued by U.S. Fire Administration

A report from the U.S. Fire Administration on emergency response efforts at the time of the I35W Bridge collapse August 1, 2007, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, finds that "Years of investing time and money into identifying gaps in the city’s disaster preparedness capabilities; acquiring radios for an interagency, linked 800 MHz system; and participating in training on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and on the organizational basis for that system (the Incident Command System (ICS) and Unified Command) paid off substantially during response and recovery operations."

The report runs through what occurred on the scene. Among the findings was that "In the first 2 hours of the response, about 50 percent of the injuries were transported to hospitals by nonambulance vehicles—private vehicles and pickups."

Additionally, "By 7:55 p.m. the last live rescue victim was transported from the scene." It goes on to note that "Within 90 minutes the regional EMS providers were able to staff 31 ambulances. Three hospitals implemented their disaster plans and three EMS EOCs were activated. The ability to mobilize EMS personnel throughout the community gives citizens confidence that EMS needs can be meet during large-scale incidents."

But not everything went smoothly. The report notes that "The ambulatory patients [for the Southwest division] were kept in front of the Red Cross Building. Unfortunately, someone directed this group to a new location inside the Red Cross Building without consulting or notifying Medic 486. One of these patients was originally triaged as “delayed” but was considered “critical” by the time EMS was redirected to the new location. Moving lower acuity patients to a protected area is acceptable, provided that triage personnel are involved and are available to reassess them. In this instance the Division Supervisor had no knowledge of the move."

With regard to communication, "Superfluous noise made it difficult for the EMDs to monitor multiple radio talk groups. During the incident, EMS communications missed a message from Minneapolis Dispatch warning of possible hazardous materials on the bridge."

For the Minneapolis Police Department, "The first critical tasks were establishing and controlling a very large and physically challenging perimeter, controlling intelligence information, and initiating an investigation to rule out the possibility of terrorism."

The police also established Family Assistance Center (FAC). The report goes into detail about this and lessons learned, including:

1. In choosing a FAC location, make sure that it offers, among other essentials, private space for sensitive communications with families.
2. Food services should include options that are sensitive to the population served, once that census
can be determined (e.g., vegetables, no pork, etc.).
3. Staffing protocols should be developed to provide consistency and ensure smooth transitions.
4. Scribes are an important asset and should be scheduled so that this position is covered until the FAC closes.
5. Activation procedures for a Medical Reserve Corps and other health and mental health resources should be clear.
6. Increased training on the elements of psychological first aid (PFA) would be beneficial, as would clarification of how PFA, crisis counseling, and critical incident stress management are different, and how to know which is most appropriate under the circumstances.
7. Some basic recordkeeping forms were used, but additional ones would have been helpful. The after-action report recommends that more basic recordkeeping templates be developed and then used immediately upon opening a FAC.
(There are 14 lessons in total)

The full report is 60 pages.

 

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