Feds to restrict volunteers at disasters
By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer
In an effort to provide better control and coordination, the federal
government is launching an ambitious ID program for rescue workers to
keep everyday people from swarming to a disaster scene. A prototype of
the new first responder identification card is already being issued to
fire and police personnel in the ., area.
Proponents say the system will get professionals on scene quicker
and keep untrained volunteers from making tough work more difficult.
Thecame up with the idea after the World Trade Center attack and in 2005, when countless Americans rushed to help — unasked, undirected, and sometimes unwanted.
Many of those volunteers angrily dispute the notion they were a
burden. They insist that in many instances they were able to deliver
respirators, hard hats, and protective boots to workers when no one
else seemed able.
Ground zero volunteer Rhonda Shearer and her daughter launched a
fast-moving supply system that bypassed regular channels, often
infuriating city officials.
Even as she delivered box trucks packed with supplies over months of
recovery work, she increasingly ended up in a cat-and-mouse game with 's police and emergency management agency.
Shearer, 53, said the experience convinced that agencies are
ill-equipped to handle major disasters — but don't want outsiders
pointing out their failings.
Similar frustrations arose after Katrina, when people were shocked
that the government struggled to take basic supplies such as water to
the worst areas.
"They're more worried about keeping volunteers out than doing an
analysis of what really went wrong," said Shearer. "Independent
citizens need to be involved, where we have no ax to grind or cross to
bear. But we will tell the truth, and we will tell what we see and bear
witness to the incompetence."
Mike Taylor, executive director of the National Demolition Association, said his industry is talking with aides to Gov.about putting it in place in his state.
goes ahead and does that, it will flow across the country. This is a
really smart idea by someone in the Bush administration to be able to
control access to the site and frankly, make sure there are no
untrained people," said Taylor. "If somebody goes running down to the
site, you have to stop and ask them, wait, are they certified to do
Because, golly, FEMA does such a bang-up job that we sure should just leave it all to them.
And I'm sure they'll be able to organize all this effectively too — just the way they organized their own effective rescue efforts in New Orleans.
Next time there's a major disaster, we certainly don't want any awkward independent witnesses around.
When the Big One hits, Arnie can just blockade the whole thing.