Stephan Hittmann on Using Training andTechnology to Prepare for Disasters (Part 1 of 2) Executive Director of the Fire Department of the City of New York
Technology and Training Improving Disaster Response and Recovery• As the Executive Director of the Fire Department of the City of New York during 9/11, Stephan Hittmann was instrumental in helping mobilize FDNY firefighters, medical and support personnel as they performed life-saving rescue and disaster recovery efforts in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.• Today, as President of the 911 Fund, Hittmann oversees initiatives that help first- response and disaster-preparedness efforts on a worldwide basis.• In an interview, he shared his thoughts about how technology and training can help improve disaster response and recovery.
Question & Answer• Question: How can training help first responders to prepare for a disaster?• Stephan Hittmann: The more training that first responders have, the easier it is for them to make critically-important and virtually instantaneous decisions in high-stress and increasingly diverse situations. In a disaster, there’s little time to think. First responders understandably often report initial feelings of deep concern, even horror in certain cases, after which “the training takes over.” Emergency executives need to find ways to provide training to help process these feelings while focusing on the tasks at hand. This doesnt just mean training on how to approach a building collapse or fight a fire. For instance, as U.S. autism rates continue to climb, emergency responders need training on how to interact with individuals who have been diagnosed with autistic or other specific types of disorders. Since these adults often behave in unusual or counterintuitive ways during high-pressure situations, responders are interested in better understanding their reaction to everyday stresses to adapt and improvise these lessons learned as part of their work in the fire service.
Question & Answer• Question: Budgets are tight nationwide. How can local governments fund necessary training?• Stephan Hittmann: The federal government, particularly the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have stepped up to provide support for emergency preparedness. For instance, DHS is helping to fund a new mass transit emergency-training center in Boston, and FEMA has developed a branch of AmeriCorps specifically for disaster preparation. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (which has awarded tens of millions of dollars since its inception post 9/11) and other sources of funding are available, and albeit limited, must be pursued by all fire departments in need.Stephan Hittmann on Using Training and Technology to Prepare for Disasters (Part 2 of 2)