Disaster Preparation in Almaden Valley
for a Multiple Causality Accident

Updated January, 30, 2010
Bob Boydston, Past AVCA President
and Trent Engler, AVCA Public Safety Advisor

Scenario:  An airplane carrying 100 passengers becomes disabled and crashes in an Almaden Valley shopping center, or a major earthquake occurs, causing multiple deaths and injuries, destroyed and damaged buildings, fires, and confusion.  A 911 call is made, and the local fire station responds.

Because the scope of the incident is larger than the initial response equipment and personnel can handle, the fire officer will request that the Multiple Causality Incident plan be placed into effect.  The initial report to communications will include the type of incident, location, number of fatalities, size of aircraft, and the size of the fire.

The Fire Officer will request, through the Fire Communications, additional medics with rescue equipment, fire suppression units, lighting, police, and an alert to the County Emergency Medical Services, (EMS).  The California State Office of Emergency Services will also be notified.

The County EMS will alert the county hospitals who will indicate the patient load that they can handle and will call in additional doctors, nurses, and other resources.  Ambulance companies with their special paramedics and the coroner's office will also be alerted.  The coroner's office will prepare for multiple deaths.  Helicopter service can also be provided.

The police will handle traffic, barricades, and crowd control.

At the accident scene, the Fire Officer will become the person in charge.  The fire paramedics will do the triage and tag the victims for class of treatment.  The classifications are IMMEDIATE, DELAYED, MINOR, and DECEASED.  Based on the triage classification, the victims are selected and sent to designated hospitals.  The dead and too badly injured are set aside to concentrate on those victims with the possibility of recovery.

The American Red Cross and Radio Amateurs are notified to provide clothing, food, medicine, communications with relatives, and shelter.  Rescue workers as well as victims are assisted.  Psychological care is also provided.  If the number of homeless is large, can not be handled by designated hotels and motels, and shelters are required, the Red Cross will set up school buildings using the cots, blankets, etc., stored in the three ARKs established by the AVCA and now owned and maintained by the Red Cross.

The command structure is generally passed on to another agency once the fire danger has passed and the injured have been transported.  In the case of an airline crash, the command would probably pass to the Federal Transportation Safety Board.

Not all of the details could be presented here, but one gets the impression that the city, county, state, federal, and private institutions are well organized to handle a large emergency in the Almaden Valley.  Practice drills are frequent.  San Jose Police and Fire have a Mutual-Aid agreement with the whole State of California and with F.E.M.A. (Federal Emergency Management Association) to provide emergency services throughout the United States.  This guarantees that help will eventually arrive.

It is generally considered that in case a disaster should strike San Jose, one should plan to keep enough food and water on hand for at least 3 days, preferably 5 days.  Also keep a radio, flashlight, batteries, first-aid kit, medications, a wrench to turn off your natural gas at the meter, and something to guard your possessions until help arrives, usually within 5 days.  Keep in mind that Police and Fire personnel will be overwhelmed and unable to respond very fast.