New York - 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 Washington, D.C., area.
Proponents say the system will get professionals on scene quicker and keep untrained volunteers from making tough work more difficult.
But they also know it is a touchy subject, particularly for those devoted to helping in moments of crisis.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency came up with the idea after the World Trade Center attack and Hurricane Katrina 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.
Supporters say the ID cards could be checked at a disaster area with a card-reader device and used to verify a person’s unique skills. For example, if police officers have been trained to handle hazardous materials, officials at the scene could deploy them to an area where their skills would be best put to use. [ap]
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