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Catastrophic Disaster Response Staff Officer's Handbook

Handbook 06-08
May 2006

CALL Handbook No. 06-08: Catastrophic Disaster Response Staff Officer's Handbook Cover

Risk Management and Safety Considerations in Disaster Response Operations

Appendix N


This Appendix highlights operations and conditions that are applicable to disaster response efforts and provides leaders with appropriate controls and prevention measures. The information provided is based on past experience in disaster response operations and also includes lessons learned in everyday operations. While some of the controls and prevention measures might seem obvious, past accident and injury experience indicates they were not so obvious to some.

Leaders must be diligent in enforcing standards and applying the principles of composite risk management (CRM) to all operations.

During disaster response efforts, DOD personnel are given missions that involve life-and-death situations. Personnel have been known to willingly assume unusual risks in such circumstances, perhaps because they think the risks are justified in the interest of saving lives. Unfortunately, however, such thinking can lead personnel to take unnecessary and inappropriate risks that will affect not only themselves, but also those they are trying to save.

Disaster response efforts are hazardous by their very nature, and resources often are stretched to the breaking point. There is never a good time for an accident, but this is especially true in disaster situations. Responding to an accident can halt response efforts and drain the resources intended for disaster assistance.

We would like to thank the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center for their use of the Leader’s Risk Management Guide for Disaster Response Operations, September 2005. The complete document can be located at:

Section 1: CRM

CRM is the process of identifying, assessing, and controlling risk arising from operational factors and making decisions that balance risk costs with mission benefits. Loss statistics show that incidents occur when personnel are unaware of hazards and countermeasures (controls), or when established countermeasures and procedures are ignored. This section provides leaders guidance on integrating the CRM process into all operations.


There are four principles to the CRM process:

  • Integrating CRM into mission planning, preparation, and execution.
    • CRM is a continual process that must be incorporated into both formal and informal planning activities.

  • Making risk decisions at the appropriate level.
    • Make risk decisions at a level consistent with the commander’s guidance. The leader responsible for the mission should make the risk decisions.

  • Accepting no unnecessary risk.
    • Everyone, including individuals who have the authority to accept risk, has the responsibility to protect Soldiers, civilians, and equipment from unnecessary risk.
    • An unnecessary risk is one that, if eliminated or mitigated, still allows mission accomplishment and maintains unit readiness.
  • Accept risk if benefits outweigh the costs.
    • Leaders and individual Soldiers must take necessary risk to accomplish the mission.
    • Leaders must understand that taking risk requires a decision-making process that balances mission benefits with costs.


There are five steps to the CRM process:

  • Identify the hazards. Hazards are the potential sources of danger that could be encountered while performing a task or mission on or off duty.
  • Assess hazards. Identified hazards must be assessed to determine their cumulative effect on the mission or objective. Each of the hazards is analyzed to determine the probability of its causing a problem and the severity of the consequences should such a problem occur. (See Figure A14-1.)

Graphic depicting Risk Assessment Matrix
Figure AN-1: Risk Assessment Matrix
  • Develop controls and make decisions. Once hazards have been assessed, controls must be developed to mitigate the risk.
  • Implement controls. The controls established as a result of the first three steps are implemented in step four, including leader action to reduce or eliminate hazards Controls may be as substantial as writing a standing operating procedure (SOP) or as simple as conducting a short safety briefing.
  • Supervise and evaluate. Leaders’ supervisory tasks include following up during and after the operation to ensure all actions went according to plan; re-evaluating the plan or making adjustments as required to accommodate unforeseen issues; and incorporating lessons learned for future use.

Section 2: Human Factors

During disaster response efforts, the interaction of our personnel and the environment can produce hazardous conditions. You as a leader can reduce or eliminate these hazards as discussed in this chapter.


Safety statistics have shown that 80 percent of all accidents are caused by human error. Leaders can reduce human error by establishing sound standards and through consistent enforcement. Failure to enforce a standard establishes a new, less stringent standard that might result in an accident.

Buddy System

Establish a buddy system and provide guidance on the issues that can be addressed by the system. Leaders also need a buddy, because they frequently try to “tough out” injuries to stay in the action.


Maintain positive communication with your personnel. Make sure your Soldiers have communication equipment, such as radios and cellular telephones. Ensure that you set up and enforce a check in and report on their status at regular intervals. Ensure that all personnel know how to contact medical assistance, rescue assets, and fire and law enforcement personnel.

Environmental Concerns

Hot weather

NOTE: Use only approved water sources (bottled water or provided potable water); the local water sources maybe contaminated.

  • Enforce hydration and monitor water use and mission risk.
  • Provide cool water whenever possible.
  • Enforce work and rest cycles.
  • Educate personnel on the signs of heat injury and ensure they watch for those symptoms.
  • Know each individual’s physical condition and assign appropriate work.
  • Establish and ensure use of the buddy system.

    Heat injuries:

    • Heat cramps are caused primarily by an excessive loss of salt from the body. Symptoms include muscle cramps in the abdomen, legs, or arms. Move the victim to a shady area, loosen his clothing, and dissolve ¼-teaspoon table salt in 1 quart of water. The victim must slowly drink at least 1 quart of this salt solution and seek medical treatment
    • Heat exhaustion is caused by excessive salt depletion and dehydration. Symptoms include profuse sweating, headache, a tingling sensation in the extremities, weakness, loss of appetite, dizziness, nausea, cramps, chills, and rapid breathing. Move the victim to a shady area, loosen or remove his clothing, elevate his legs, pour water on him, have him drink water, and fan him as much as possible. Promptly seek medical treatment.
    • Heat stroke is a medical emergency and immediate action is required. Symptoms generally are patterned after heat exhaustion, but the victim’s skin will be hot and dry, and he might suddenly lose consciousness and have seizures. Move any suspected heatstroke victim to a shady area; immerse him in water if possible, or douse him with water (ice water is preferable); fan him as much as possible; and elevate his feet. Seek immediate medical attention and ensure the cooling process is continued during transport to the medical facility.
    • The pain and discomfort associated with the effects of sunburn can be debilitating in the short term, as well as contributing to skin cancers resulting from exposure over the course of time. The most effective means of sunburn prevention is to limit the length of exposure, particularly during the midmorning and midafternoon when the amount of ultraviolet radiation is greatest. Effective means of protection are to wear clothing and hats to cover exposed skin, as well as applying commercial skin preparations made specifically to block ultraviolet rays. In addition, the eyes also need protection from exposure to sunlight and glare. Wear appropriate sunglasses designed to block ultraviolet rays.

Cold Weather

  • Wear the right clothing
  • Dress in layers and wear warm, waterproof/resistant clothing.
  • Wear appropriate eye protection, such as sun glasses/goggles
    • Cold injuries

      • Dehydration is the depletion of body fluids. In cold weather people are less apt to feel thirsty and/or have less desire to drink fluids; it is imperative to enforce hydration and monitor water use and mission risk. Symptoms are dizziness, weakness, and blurred vision. Replace lost water by sipping, not gulping, water
      • Chilblain is repeated exposure of bare skin for prolonged periods to temperatures from 20 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (F). (Note the range is for those not acclimated to cold weather). Symptoms are swollen, red skin or darkening of the skin in dark-skinned Soldiers and tender, hot skin, usually accompanied by itching. First aide is to warm affected area with direct body heat, do not rub affected areas. Do not wet the area or rub with snow or ice nor expose affected area to open fire or other intense heat source.
      • Immersion foot (trench foot) is prolonged exposure of feet to wet conditions at temperatures between 32 and 60 degrees F., caused by inactivity, and damp socks and boots. Symptoms include cold numb feet progressing to hot feet with shooting pains, swelling, redness, and bleeding. Seek medical attention immediately; rewarm feet by exposing to warm, not hot, air. Do not massage, rub, moisten, or expose feet to extreme heat. Evacuate victim to a medical faculty.
      • Frostbite is the freezing of tissue, normally due to exposure below 32 degrees F and is caused by exposing bare skin to metal, extremely cool fuel and petroleum, oil, lubricants (POL), and wind chill. Tight clothing and boots increase the risk. Parts most often affected include fingers, toes, ears, and other facial parts. Symptoms include yellowish, waxy looking skin (grayish in dark-skinned Soldiers) and tissue that feels wooden to the touch. First aid is to warm affected area with direct body heat; do not thaw frozen areas if treatment will be delayed; do not massage or rub affected areas; do not wet the area or rub it with snow or ice; do not expose skin to any intense heat source.
      • Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature due to prolonged exposure to cold and loss of body heat and may occur at temperatures well above freezing, especially when a person is immersed in water. Symptoms include lack of shivering, drowsiness, metal slowness, and lack of coordination. Hypothermia can lead to unconsciousness and death. First aid is to get the Soldier to a medical facility as soon as possible. This is the most serious cold weather medical emergency and can lead to death. Never assume someone is dead, as victims with temperatures as low as 82 degrees F have been revived. In extreme cold, the pulse and breathing can be so low as to be nearly undetectable. Strip off wet clothing and wrap in blanket or sleeping bag, and place another person in the sleeping bag as an additional heat source.
      • Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused when oxygen is replaced with carbon monoxide in the blood stream and is commonly caused by burning fuels without proper ventilation. Symptoms include headache, confusion, dizziness, excessive yawning, and unconsciousness. First aid is to move to fresh air; perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), if needed; administer oxygen, if available; and evacuate.


Fatigue causes accidents. Personnel become militarily ineffective after 48 to 72 hours without sleep. The best control measure against fatigue is sleep. Water consumption, diet, physical conditioning, personal hygiene, and meaningful work all impact fatigue, as well, so ensure the impact is positive.

Observe personnel for signs of the following symptoms of fatigue, and be mindful that these symptoms can manifest themselves in increased errors and carelessness and difficulty in following instructions:

  • Headache
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Impatience and irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to focus on the task at hand
  • Outright physical exhaustion and lack of motivation

Sleep Plans

Facts about sleep deprivation:

  • You cannot train to overcome sleep loss.
  • Tasks that are uninteresting and take a long time are extremely conducive to sleep.
  • Performance of mental tasks requiring calculations, creativity, and ability to plan ahead declines by 25 percent for every 24-hour period of semi-continuous work without sleep.
  • Leaders’ abilities are degraded by sleep loss, impacting quick and effective responses to changing conditions.
  • Tasks that have been learned well and practiced repeatedly are more resistant to sleep loss effects. Select the best-trained personnel to perform critical tasks.
  • The ability to learn new information is compromised by sleep loss.
  • Leadership ability cannot overcome sleep loss.
  • Sleep loss over time (greater than 2 days) has a cumulative effect.
    • Guidelines for sleep plans

      • Six to eight hours of sleep per night will maintain mental task performance indefinitely.
      • Provide designated sleep areas where there are minimal interruptions and disturbances, as well as an area that maximizes a darkened condition and minimizes noise.
      • Three to four hours of sleep per night will maintain mental task performance for five to six days.
      • Less than 4 hours of sleep per night over a 3- to 6-day period will impair military effectiveness.
      • The best sleep periods, given a limited choice, are 0300 to 0600 and 1600 to 1900.
      • Provide for a minimum of four to five hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep.
      • Remember, however, that after six to seven days accumulated sleep loss will equal 48 hours without sleep.
      • After 24 to 36 hours without sleep, decisions, calculations, etc., should be cross-checked by a second person. Use a mix of rested and unrested personnel as a check and balance.
      • Allow for naps as often as possible. Four one-hour naps in a 24-hour period are as beneficial as four hours of sleep. However, accumulated sleep loss is more severe with fragmented sleep.
      • Sleep plans should include provisions to recover from sleep loss.
      • Twelve hours of sleep and rest with at least eight to ten hours of sleep are required after 36 to 48 hours of acute sleep loss.
      • Twenty-four hours of sleep and rest with at least 15 hours of sleep are required after 36 to 48 hours of sleep loss under high workload conditions of 12 to 16 hours per day. This is particularly important for commanders and staff with high mental task workloads.
      • Two to three days of sleep and rest are required after 72 to 96 hours of sleep loss. The sleep and rest period means eight to ten hours of sleep per day and light duty.
      • Supervisors must be diligent in checking personnel to ensure they get adequate rest.

Personal Injuries

  • Eyes. Precautions should be taken to protect the eyes by wearing protective lenses, goggles, or face shields when the job calls for it.
  • Ears. Leaders must enforce the use of hearing protection when personnel are operating heavy equipment, generators, or chain saws.
  • Head. Helmets or hard hats should be worn in construction areas in accordance with unit requirements.
  • Hands. Rings are a common source of personal injury. Personnel frequently catch rings on the tailgate of vehicles while dismounting, causing severe hand injuries or amputations. Leaders should ensure that their Soldiers remove rings or other jewelry that may become hooked or snagged. In addition, leaders should provide work gloves for personnel as the job requires, to prevent cuts, splinters, blisters, and exposure to hazardous materials.
  • Back. In most cases, back injuries occur when individuals overextend themselves. Leaders must remind personnel to get help when lifting heavy objects and to lift with their legs, not their backs.
  • Feet. Leaders must enforce wear of protective boots in areas that require toe protection such as maintenance, engineer, warehousing, and materiel handling facilities. Also ensure personnel change their socks regularly to prevent trench foot and fungal infections.

Health and Hygiene

  • Hand washing
    • Provide appropriate hand washing facilities at all food service areas, latrines, and disposal areas. Hand washing is the single-most important measure in preventing food-borne illness and must be enforced at all times.
    • Hand cleansers and liquid hand gel can be provided and issued to individuals.
  • Water
    • Ensure water is treated; serious diseases can be transmitted by untreated water.
    • Treat all water as if it is contaminated. Do not go in the water unless it is necessary or has been approved by the chain of command.
    • Water in trailers should maintain a chlorine level of 5 parts per million (ppm).
    • Use water in trailers primarily for showering and cooking, because the chlorine taste will discourage Soldiers from drinking it. Bottled water should be the primary source of drinking water.
    • All personnel should be immunized appropriately.
  • Laundry and bath
    • Laundry operations require that equipment be operated at specific temperatures. To prevent fires, ensure temperatures listed in the appropriate operator’s manual are not exceeded.
    • Ensure laundry units operating inside tents have adequate ventilation.
    • Ensure high-voltage laundry units are grounded and that circuits are not bypassed.
    • Ensure operators are using fuels prescribed in the appropriate operator’s manual to prevent overheating and fire hazards.
  • Food
    • Keep perishable foods below 45 ºF or above 140 ºF before serving.
    • Dispose of perishable foods kept in insulated containers for more than 4 hours.
    • If using meals, ready to eat (MRE), ensure personnel stay well hydrated to avoid constipation.
    • Bacterial diarrhea, viral diarrhea, chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metal poisoning are hazards associated with eating food from unapproved sources.
    • Do not consume food procured from or prepared by local personnel in the immediate hazard area.
  • Latrines and Waste Disposal
    • Designate a field sanitation team (FST) before deployment.
    • Ensure FSTs deploy with appropriate equipment and references.
    • Ensure portable latrines are available, cleaned regularly, and located in low-lying areas.
    • Ensure methods are available to establish adequate waste disposal procedures.
    • Do not burn trash or waste without approval from appropriate military personnel.
    • To minimize rodent and stray animal activity, designate locations and storage facilities for trash away from living and work areas.


  • Snakes. Tell personnel to leave snakes alone. There are poisonous snakes in many parts of the United States, but bites from nonpoisonous snakes can also be harmful if they are not cared for properly and become infected. Anyone bitten should immobilize the affected area and seek medical help immediately. When ice is available, apply it to the bite to slow the spread of venom. Tourniquets and attempts to suck venom out of the wound can cause more harm than good.
  • Wild animals. Wild animals such as bats, raccoons, and skunks, as well as feral dogs and cats, might be injured, hungry, or have rabies or other diseases.
  • Domestic animals. Domestic pets might be more aggressive or dangerous than usual. Ensure personnel do not taunt, play with, or handle any animals.


  • Bites from spiders, mosquitoes, and other insects can cause illness and lead to infected wounds. Ensure personnel shake out their clothing before getting dressed and check their boots before putting them on.
  • Where possible, boots should be placed off the ground or inside a waterproof bag or other container. Ensure personnel wear the appropriate seasonal uniform with the sleeves down and apply repellent in accordance with the DOD Insect Repellent System. If possible, use insect repellents that contain DEET.

Respiratory Issues

Personnel might be exposed to asbestos, carbon monoxide, nuisance dust, or other caustic fumes. Ensure personnel have the appropriate masks available when entering buildings. If required, ensure all personnel have been fitted for the appropriate gas, mist, fume, and dust protective masks.

To minimize the spread of upper respiratory infections, have personnel sleep in alternating head-to-toe arrangements. Also establish work/rest cycles to prevent personnel from sleeping en masse. When possible, avoid establishing sleeping quarters in areas contaminated with mold and mildew. Enforce hand washing and cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Some species of brush such as oleander are poisonous. Caution personnel not to inhale smoke when burning brush or other materials. Such smoke can cause respiratory problems including sickness and, in extreme cases, death.

Stress Management

Everyone involved in rescue and recovery operations, including the rescue workers and victims, are dealing with increased stress and anxiety. There is a tragic loss of life and material possessions that will affect each person involved. Personnel must seek care from a stress management team or the Red Cross when they feel overwhelmed or unable to cope with the rescue operations.

Minimum Personal Precautions

Everyone involved in rescue and cleanup operations must be aware of the risk from blood-borne pathogens. There currently is and will continue to be disease contamination at all rescue sites. Ensure personnel have current Hepatitis A and tetanus immunizations at a minimum. Precautions must be followed, and the equipment below must be provided:

  • Latex or rubber gloves
  • Over-garments for clothing protection
  • Face masks for respiratory protection
  • Goggles for eye protection from splashes or spills
  • Bleach and chlorine for cleanup and decontamination of biohazards
  • Biohazard bags

A collection site for contaminated items must be established. In addition, sites must be designated for showering and clothing changes before personnel leave for non-contaminated areas.

Section 3: Ground Operations

This section will address the largest area of operations. Leaders should use caution when planning out operations to reduce hazards.

Some of the areas and equipment to be considered include hard hats, advanced combat helmet, gloves, personal protective equipment (PPE), biohazard protection, respirators, water hazard protection, personal flotation devices, goggles or face shields, knee pads, etc.)

General Recovery and Rescue Operations

  • Be aware of the surroundings and not enter damaged structures.
  • Be alert for exposed electrical, gas, and other utility lines.
  • Wear gloves and other protective clothing.
  • Avoid moving or tampering with propane tanks.
  • Watch for nails, glass, and other sharp objects.
  • Personnel should not attempt to recover human remains unless they are part of a recovery crew. Ensure personnel are briefed in advance on what to do if human remains are discovered.

Electrical hazards

Large electrical transformers might contain PCBs or cancer-causing chemicals. Electrical lines also might be energized and present a shock hazard. Ensure personnel:

  • Do not attempt to move transformers during cleanup.
  • Mark transformers and report their locations to the chain of command.
  • Do not touch or operate near downed power lines. Electricity might be restored to downed power lines without notice. Beware of downed lines and anything touching them.
  • As power is resupplied, all emergency generators must come off line. Only qualified utility or engineer personnel should conduct the changeover.
  • If the downed power line is difficult to see but is in a traffic area, clearly mark the area so no one inadvertently steps on the downed wire.

Hazardous materials

There are many sources of hazardous materials. Remind personnel to:

  • Avoid areas near damaged propane tanks, oil containers, or other chemical drums.
  • Mark and report suspected waste dump sites to the chain of command and avoid such areas.

Chain saw operations

  • Ensure operators receive training before operation, especially in procedures for cutting down trees to ensure trees fall in a safe direction.
  • Enforce the wear of PPE including eye protection, hearing protection, and gloves.
  • Check for nails, wire, and other metal objects before cutting.

Severe weather

Ensue that all personnel are familiar with the seasonal severe weather potentials: thunderstorms, ice storms, blizzards, etc.

Vehicle operations

Vehicle operations in this environment will be extremely dangerous. Personnel must drive defensively and be alert to potential hazards.

  • Enforce the use of restraint systems by crew and passengers.
  • Establish and enforce safe speed limits for various road and environmental conditions.
  • Pair experienced drivers with inexperienced ones to provide supervision and hands-on training.
  • Use experienced drivers in difficult terrain.
  • Remind drivers to slow down in limited visibility, on rough terrain, and during inclement weather.
  • Keep vehicle antennas secured to prevent contact with power lines and other objects.
  • Take into account the maximum fording depth for each vehicle type, and ensure proper fording equipment and accessories are installed before entering water areas (i.e., exhaust extensions).

Preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS)

  • Stress that PMCS is critical, especially under adverse or unusual conditions.
  • Ensure operators perform special requirements covered in the “Operating Under Unusual Conditions” section of their respective operator’s manual.

Route reconnaissance

  • When possible, conduct a physical reconnaissance of the route to avoid the worst terrain hazards. Mark unavoidable hazards on a strip map and include them in the convoy briefing.
  • Reconnoiter the route for bridges or underpasses that might be too low for large vehicles.
  • Caution drivers that roads, bridges, and overpasses might not be posted with weight or height restrictions.
  • If possible, reconnoiter routes for hazards below the water line before operations begin.
  • Check water height before driving through to ensure vehicles will not get swept away. A good rule of thumb is to not drive into running water deeper than the vehicle axle.

Ground guides

  • Train drivers in the correct use of ground guides, and train all personnel in how to perform as ground guides.
  • Stress the importance of ground guides in congested areas and during periods of limited visibility.
  • Remind drivers to use two ground guides while backing or when their view is restricted.
  • Equip ground guides with suitable lights during periods of limited visibility or darkness.
  • Always use ground guides in assembly areas, displaced persons camps, etc.
  • Remind drivers to keep ground guides in view at all times and to stop the vehicle if they lose sight of them.
  • Instruct ground guides to never walk backward and to stay out of the path of backing vehicles.

Passenger or cargo transport

  • Use fixed seating in truck cargo beds. In cargo beds without fixed seating, ensure passengers remain seated within the truck body and keep their heads, hands, and other body parts inside the vehicle cargo area.
  • Ensure all personnel remain seated when being transported in the back of cargo vehicles.
  • Enforce the use of troop straps when transporting personnel and ensure tailgates are secure.


Conduct convoy briefings before any movement. The following headings should be addressed during the convoy briefing:

  • General:
    • Establish and enforce safe convoy and catch-up speeds that do not exceed the posted limits and are appropriate for expected road and environmental conditions.
    • Set speeds based on personnel, training, terrain, environment, and equipment.
    • Establish safe following distance guidelines. Increase following distance in bad weather or darkness.
    • Establish procedures to warn approaching vehicles of vehicle stops and breakdowns.
    • Mark unavoidable hazards on a strip map and include them in the pre-march briefing.
    • Check loads to ensure cargo is secured correctly. Stress even load distribution, especially when traveling over sandy terrain.
    • Do not place vehicles transporting troops, ammunition, or POL last in a serial or march unit.
    • Ensure all prime movers and trailer brake systems are connected properly and are fully operational.
    • Reinforce braking and downhill driving procedures with all operators.
    • Ensure routes have proper vehicle clearance. (See the “Route reconnaissance” section of this chapter).
  • Material failure:
    • During halts, emphasize tire condition and security of loads.
    • During operation, have drivers pay particular attention to air cleaner indicator and water and transmission gages.
    • Ensure operators know proper cool-down procedures for their vehicles.
    • Ensure vehicle basic issue items, pioneer tools, highway warning devices, and fire extinguishers are present on every vehicle.
    • Ensure disabled vehicles are moved completely off the roadway.
    • Conduct after-operations PMCS on each vehicle; focus on potential damage to the undercarriage and tires from road debris.
  • Trail party/recovery vehicle operations:
    • Remind recovery personnel to use a braking vehicle when required by the technical manual (TM) and to always use correct hookup procedures.
    • Ensure all vehicles are equipped for self-recovery as appropriate (tow ropes/cables, rope ladders, and pierced steel planking, or other traction material to place under tires).
    • Do not allow personnel between vehicles during recovery operations.
    • Ensure personnel stay clear of tow ropes, cables, and rope ladders during operation.
    • Caution personnel to keep hands and clothing at least five feet from winches when rewinding cable after recovery operations.
    • Enforce safe towing speeds.
    • Fabricate ground support devices for outrigger support in soft soil.

Forklift operations

  • General:
    • Require operators to wear safety belts.
    • Enforce the use of ground guides in congested areas.
    • Do not allow riders.
    • Ensure personnel know and stay within forklift load limits.
    • Check to ensure operators chock wheels before unloading.
    • Do not allow personnel to park on a grade.
  • Rollover procedures:
    • Instruct operators to stay in their seat, grip the wheel, and brace their feet in the event of a rollover.
    • Warn operators not to jump from the vehicle.

Weapons handling

  • Follow proper weapons handling procedures in accordance with appropriate TMs and graphic training aids.
  • Instruct personnel on the rules of engagement with regards to weapons status.
  • Ensure personnel clear their weapons at designated weapons clearing points.
  • Control ammunition and safeguard it from the civilian population.
  • Be aware of environmental factors that might affect weapons systems and take preventive or corrective actions as necessary.
  • Do not tolerate horseplay.

Sleeping locations

  • Establish a designated sleeping area. If the situation permits, mark the perimeter with engineer tape or chem lights.
  • Post unit perimeter security personnel equipped with lights for signaling. Ensure they have been briefed thoroughly on their duties and responsibilities.
  • Ensure vehicles are not parked where they can roll toward sleeping personnel or on an incline without chocks.
  • Do not allow personnel to sleep in or under their vehicles
  • Establish dismount points beyond which vehicles may not move without ground guides.
  • Require all vehicles to use ground guides, especially during periods of darkness and reduced visibility.


  • Establish fire protection plans and evacuation procedures.
  • Ensure operable fire extinguishers are accessible and that operators are assigned and knowledgeable.
  • Require that electrical circuits be inspected routinely for possible overload conditions.
  • Establish and enforce smoking areas.
  • Ensure tents are anchored securely to withstand possible winds.
  • To prevent trips and falls, ensure tent ropes and anchors can be seen clearly.

Mess operations

  • Sanitation:
    • Hand washing is the single-most important measure in preventing food-borne illness and must be enforced at all times.
    • Ensure all food waste is disposed of properly.
    • Ensure food preparation areas are at least 100 meters from latrines and 50 meters from incinerators.
    • Ensure food is protected from contamination.
    • Monitor food handlers and other personnel to ensure sanitation standards are maintained.
  • Fire/explosion:
    • Ensure kitchen fuel storage areas are at least 15 meters from working areas and are marked as hazard areas.
    • Ensure operable fire extinguishers are accessible (with designated operators) in mess tent areas and at stove-lighting and fuel storage areas.
    • Ensure all personnel fueling or operating stoves, immersion heaters, and burners are properly trained and licensed.
    • Make operators aware that increased heat will add pressure to fuel tanks and fuel cans and that particular attention should be given to M2 burners.
    • Keep mess tent exits clear of obstructions.

Maintenance operations

  • Tire checks:
    • Ensure tires are checked often for cuts and wear.
    • Remind drivers to check for rocks between duals and to check tire pressure often.
  • Tire repair:
    • Ensure mechanics always use an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) approved tire cage.
    • Remind mechanics to use proper tools, to keep hands out of tire cages while inflating tires, and to use extension hoses. Require the use of 10-foot inflation gauges with a locking chuck for inflating and deflating split-rim tires.
    • Remind mechanics to use the buddy system when lifting, moving, and installing large tires.
  • Batteries:
    • Require the use of face shields, goggles, and aprons when servicing batteries.
    • Remind personnel to keep air vents on caps clean to allow gas release and avoid pressure buildup.
    • Ensure personnel check battery levels often. Battery electrolyte water evaporates faster in hot weather.
    • Ensure personnel adjust battery electrolyte levels during the day.
    • When batteries cool, levels will lower slightly and overflow will be avoided.
    • Require the use of slave cables. Only as a last resort should jumper cables be used. Remind personnel to beware of sparks as jumper cables are attached around the battery’s gaseous vapors.
    • Ensure mechanics adjust voltage regulators to the lowest setting possible to avoid overcharging.
  • POL:
    • Remind personnel to use extreme care when changing hot lubricants, which can burn skin.
    • Take care to prevent contamination of POL.
  • Brakes:
    • Remind mechanics to use low air pressure to remove sand and dust from brake drum areas.
  • Radiators/coolant:
    • Remind personnel to use caution when removing radiator caps from hot vehicles and to check radiator fluids often to avoid overheating.
    • Personnel should not use their hands to remove caps unless the cap is cool to the touch.
    • Remind personnel to keep radiators and airflow areas clean and free of debris to avoid rupture.
    • Require that radiator caps be tested often, because the caps control radiator pressure.
  • Grounding:
    • Instruct personnel to dig or drive grounding rods to a depth of six feet.
    • Remind personnel to keep the soil around grounding rods moist to increase conductivity. Keep rods, straps, and connections free of paint or oils.
    • Ensure portable electric power tools and power generation equipment is grounded properly.

Fuel handling

  • Grounding and bonding:
    • Ensure proper grounding and bonding procedures are used at all times.
    • Remind personnel that hot conditions contribute to the generation of static electricity.
    • Remind personnel to ground themselves by touching a large metal object before handling fuel hoses and nozzles.
    • Ensure grounding and bonding equipment is inspected regularly.
  • Tank and pump units. Remind personnel to:
    • Lubricate equipment more often and use light oil instead of grease.
    • Keep caps and covers on systems.
    • Keep pump engines clean.
    • Purge tanks, lines, and filter separators at the beginning and end of each day.
    • Re-circulate all fuels to remove water.
    • Keep pressure response valves clean (compressed air).
    • Watch for corrosion.
    • Wear fuel-resistant or rubber gloves and protective clothing to keep fuel off the skin. (Human skin is highly susceptible to drying, cracking, and peeling if it comes in contact with fuel. Personnel should immediately change out of clothing that has been contaminated with fuel through spills or other means.)
  • Fuel system supply point: Remind personnel to:
    • Not fill collapsible bags to full capacity to allow for expansion.
    • Leave hose line valves slightly open to allow for fuel expansion in the tank.
    • Keep pump engines clean and lubricate the pumps more often.
    • Use dust caps and plugs.
  • Refueling operations: Ensure proper bonding and grounding procedures are used and remind personnel to:
    • Not fill vehicles to full capacity to allow for expansion.
    • Keep tank truck hatches open during refueling to allow vapors to escape.
    • Stay on the windward side to prevent being overcome by fuel vapors.
    • Close hatches immediately after refueling.
    • Use bottom load procedures when possible. (If top loading is used, use extreme caution and start the refueling procedure at a slow rate until the level of fuel has covered the hose. Thereafter, increase the flow rate slowly.)


  • Antennas:
    • Remind personnel that, when erecting RC-292/OE254 antennas, they must stay twice the distance from power lines as the length of the antenna.
    • Stress that personnel have been killed by falling antenna head sections.
    • Require that personnel wear eye protection, head protection, and gloves when erecting antennas.
    • Allow no substitutes for antenna mast sections; camouflage poles have been a fatal alternative.
    • If, for any reason, an assembled antenna head must be left on the ground, ensure it is guarded, to prevent others from walking into it. Tip protectors are a must.
  • Power lines:
    • Identify power lines in operational areas to all personnel.
    • Tie down antennas when in areas with power lines. Antenna tips should be no lower than seven feet to preclude eye injuries. Use tip protectors at all times.
    • Warn personnel to never throw communication (commo) wire over power lines.
  • Electrical storms:
    • If possible, do not operate radios, telephones, or switchboards during storms.
    • Disconnect electrical equipment from power sources and antennas if the situation permits.
    • If equipment must be used, converse as little as possible, and return calls after the storm.
    • Ensure all electrical equipment is grounded.

Material handling

  • Lift and carry procedures
    • Never carry a load heavier than can be managed with ease. When in doubt, get assistance
    • Bend from the hips and knees, not just the waist.
    • Carry heavy objects close to the body.
  • Mounting and dismounting equipment
    • Remind personnel to maintain three points of contact while mounting or dismounting vehicles and negotiating structures.
    • Ensure areas are clear of obstructions and hazards and remind personnel to use care when vision is obstructed by objects being carried.
    • Caution personnel not to jump or step from cargo vehicles while carrying loads. Tell them to use a ramp or get help.
    • Remind personnel to use extreme care when carrying loads in loose sand or over rough surfaces.

Rail Operations

  • General
    • Assign only qualified drivers to load vehicles. Drivers must be licensed on the vehicles they are loading on the rail car.
    • Require antennas to be removed or tied down and ensure internal equipment is secured.
  • Ground guides
    • Have ground guides escort all vehicles on and off rail cars.
    • Instruct ground guides to never walk backward and never be on the same rail car as a moving vehicle.
  • Load teams
    • Provide gloves and correct tools for the job.
    • Provide instruction in proper use of tools and inspect tools, blocking, lashing, spanners, and tow bars for serviceability before use.
    • Prohibit sleeping on, in, under, or around rail cars.

Section IV: Rotary Wing Aviation Operations

Aviation safety perspective

Safety is paramount. In everyday operations, pilots require a certain amount of clear airspace to conduct approach and departure safely, especially helicopter approaches to confined areas. Pilots also require current information about wind speed and direction to operate safely at any landing site. Pilots do not need less-clear airspace, less-clear ground space, or less-current wind information simply because a disaster has occurred. While a disaster might appear to have turned the world upside down, the laws of physics still apply.

  • Before flight operations:
    • Operate according to the crawl-walk-run philosophy, especially in unfamiliar environments.
    • Conduct detailed planning and mission briefings regardless of pilot experience level.
    • Conduct a CRM assessment of accidental and mission risk with special emphasis on environmental risks (altitude, cold, heat, dust/snow). Tailor risk assessment matrices (worksheets) for the aircraft type and mission to be performed.
    • Ensure all mission changes are briefed by the appropriate briefing and approving authority. Stress the importance of not conducting unauthorized tasks and tasks not briefed beforehand to all flight crews.
    • Establish specific crewmember duties during mission briefings.
    • Identify aircrew coordination requirements to ensure standardized communications between crewmembers, other aircraft, and ground personnel.
    • For rotary wing operations, establish vertical helicopter instrument recovery procedures for all areas of operation and include in mission briefings. Ensure crews know instrument recovery airfields. Check the status of all airfields in the disaster area before departure to ensure operability of navigation aids, airfield lighting, and services.
    • Tailor pre-accident plans for specific areas of operation.
    • Create hazards maps for all areas of operation. Due to reconstruction and response efforts, known hazards might change or new hazards might develop with little notice. Areas known to have been clear or unobstructed might no longer be safe for landing or low-level flight.
    • Require aircrew to review hazards maps and update the hazards maps often.
    • Take special care when dealing with power transmission lines. Assume that all power lines, especially those downed by the disaster, are live.
    • Identify all high intensity radio transmission areas.
    • Ensure crewmembers adjust aviation life support equipment and personal protective equipment for over water and rescue operations. Integrate civilian authorities into mission planning whenever possible.
    • Work with local airport agencies and the Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) regional flight district office to establish an aerial procedures guide for traffic deconfliction, fixed- and rotary-wing routes, aided and unaided traffic, and air traffic control procedures.
    • Be aware that many navigation aids might not be operable in disaster-affected areas and remember their status can change quickly and without notice.
    • Plan for dealing with power management issues before the flight. Disaster recovery support operations might increase the need for rotary wing aircrews to conduct downwind, formation, and steep approaches and also operate while hovering for long periods out-of-ground effect.
    • Consider the possibility that some passengers might not understand oral or written English. If the mission is likely to involve transporting civilian passengers and especially evacuees, consider taking a Soldier on board who is fluent in both Spanish and English. At a minimum, consider providing the flight crew with a bilingual phrase guide for common commands and phrases.
  • During flight operations:
    • Be aware the disaster area might become congested with military, other governmental agency, and civilian aircraft. Emphasize the importance of scanning for other aircraft and obstacles to all crewmembers. Do not assume civilian aircraft are familiar with military flight techniques or procedures to deconflict airspace.
    • Require all crewmembers to assist in obstacle clearance.
    • Emphasize foreign object debris awareness when conducting operations in urban and post-natural disaster environments.
    • Be prepared for nonstandard internal and external loads. Take all reasonable steps to adjust for these loads.
    • Do not allow crews to develop a false sense of urgency simply because they are supporting disaster response or engaged in rescue operations.
    • Conduct landing zone/pick-up zone surveys to ensure suitability for aviation operations. For special considerations with regard to aircraft landing site selection, see the “Aircraft site selection criteria” section at the end of this chapter.
    • Do not trust any rooftop for landing, even if previously tested. Water damage might change load-handling capability. If you have to land on a rooftop, maintain a power setting that reduces the weight but keeps the aircraft in positive contact with the landing point.
    • Consider alternative briefing techniques for passengers such as preprinted passenger briefing cards. Emphasize entry and exit of the aircraft during crew chief briefings. Be aware that you might be dealing with passengers who have never been around military or rotary-wing aircraft of any type. Do not assume these passengers understand military lingo or the basic precautions to protect themselves around Army aircraft.
    • If ground rescue agencies are on site, establish communications with the ground element to facilitate air-ground integration.
    • Place extra emphasis on preventing fuel contamination, especially fuel obtained from non-governmental agencies.
  • After flight operations:
    • Conduct all scheduled maintenance in accordance with the applicable maintenance manuals. Do not defer maintenance due to operations unless the commander or his lawful representative authorizes such.
    • Thoroughly inspect all aircraft after conducting operations in unimproved areas or after conducting rescue operations.
    • Update unit hazard maps after every flight, and share the information with higher headquarters and civilian agencies.
    • Coordination with the FAA, specifically Flight Service, is essential. End the mission with a call to 1-800-WX-BRIEF (1-800-992-7433) informing them of any new hazards in the area of operations.

A pilot needs three things for safe operations at any helicopter landing site:

  • Adequate clear airspace for approach and departure with at least one, but preferably two, departure paths
  • Adequate clear space for expected ground maneuvers
  • Adequate current information about wind speed and direction (a wind sock is the ideal source for such information)

Additions to these basic requirements usually depend on the facility’s purpose, resources available for development, and how often they will be used. In a disaster situation with numerous helicopters participating in response efforts, it is highly desirable to have multiple approach and departure paths into the landing zone along with multiple parking areas. These measures provide an increased safety margin and operational flexibility and also reduce operational delay. Specifically, commanders should consider the following factors when selecting aircraft sites:

  • Location. Remember the ultimate purpose of the facility when selecting the location of a temporary or permanent emergency-use landing zone. Landing zones near the disaster site and the emergency room entrance at receiving hospitals are most desirable but not at the expense of safety, communications, and operations. The landing area should be placed far enough away from activity centers so rotor wash will not blow dust or supplies around and noise will not interfere with communications.
  • Approach and departure paths. Like all aircraft, helicopters require clear airspace for safe operations during approach and departure. When selecting landing sites, it is critical to choose locations that provide at least the minimum airspace recommended by the FAA. Some of the most common helicopter accidents at landing sites are collisions with off-facility obstacles. Such accidents might involve collision with a tower, trees, or wires. These accidents can destroy aircraft and injure occupants. Selection of sites with additional airspace is encouraged because they provide an additional safety margin. Obstacles such as buildings, antennas, or wires must not penetrate either the approach/departure surfaces or the transitional surfaces. Aircraft operate best when taking off or landing into the wind. Thus, while one approach and departure path might be acceptable at some locations, two or more paths are recommended as a way to provide greater safety and operational flexibility during varying wind conditions. Approach and departure paths should not pass over command posts, treatment areas, or operationally congested ground areas where rotor wash and noise might interfere with communications and operations.
  • Minimum recommended size final approach and takeoff areas (FATOs). The minimum recommended FATO size is determined by the largest aircraft expected to use the facility. Keep in mind the largest helicopter might be a military aircraft such as the CH-47. Choosing and designing landing sites that exceed the minimum requirements can increase the safety margin.
  • Minimum recommended size safety area. The size of the safety area around the FATO is determined by the largest aircraft expected to use the facility, military or civilian. The safety area provides clearance between the FATO’s edge and buildings, trees, fences, telephone poles, wires, hillsides, or anything else that could be struck by main or tail rotors. Increasing the minimum tip clearance between helicopter rotors and objects that might be hit can increase the safety margin. This is a particular concern for objects that are hard to see (such as wires) or whose color allows them to blend into the background when visibility is poor. For nighttime operation at a temporary or unimproved landing site, a minimum tip clearance of 40 feet is recommended.
  • Wind indicator. A means of informing the pilot of wind velocity and direction is essential at a landing zone. The recommended means is a wind sock. At facilities that are used only during disasters, choose a wind sock that can be installed quickly on a temporary basis. Placement is critical, particularly if the landing site is located near a building. Place the wind sock so it does not interfere with flight operations but still gives a true indication of wind speed and direction. In areas with swirling or varying winds, such as near buildings or in mountainous areas, two or more carefully placed wind socks might be required for an accurate indication. A lighted wind sock should be used for night operations. Care should be taken to ensure this lighting is installed in a way that does not degrade night vision.
  • Surface slope (in degrees). The landing surface should be flat with no bumps or depressions and level (or as near level as possible). In no case should the slope exceed ten degrees from the horizontal.
  • Surface composition. Landing surfaces should be capable of supporting 1.5 times the heaviest helicopter’s maximum takeoff weight and be skid-resistant. All helicopter landing areas should be free of dust, loose dirt, other forms of loose debris and objects, and gravel smaller than 1.5 inches in diameter. Rotor wash can pick up and throw small gravel at significant speeds. Turf landing zones are suitable, but vegetation should be no higher than 12 to 18 inches. Wheeled helicopters are especially sensitive to soft landing surfaces. To control dust in dirt areas, wet down the landing area with a hose before landing operations begin.
  • Obstructions and obstacles. Tie-downs and other equipment within the FATO lights should be flush with the surface. Obstacles such as signs, poles, light fixtures, or fire extinguishers should be kept well clear of helicopter maneuvering areas. This is particularly relevant for objects that are difficult to see from the air such as power or telephone lines, guy wires, and poles that blend into the background. Obstructions should be briefed to pilots and, for night operations, should be lighted in a way that will not interfere with the aircrew’s night vision. Ball markers can be effective in marking obstacles such as power lines and guy wires.
  • Lighting. Lighting systems are necessary to support night operations. However, the installation of permanent lighting systems usually is practical only at permanent landing sites. Portable lighting systems are available commercially and can be used at temporary facilities. Flares, vehicle lights, and other light sources are acceptable field expedients if trained personnel deploy them under very carefully controlled circumstances. Special care must be taken in the placement and orientation of lighting to avoid the temporary destruction of crews’ night vision.
  • Security. Fences and hedges can effectively restrict inadvertent or unauthorized access to permanent heliports and helipads, but they must not present a hazard to flight operations. It is absolutely essential to have specially trained personnel responsible for security at temporary landing zones. Confusion and excitement can create dangerous situations for persons on the ground and the aircraft using the facility. For on-the-scene landing areas, a vehicle barrier or very secure rope can help keep the flow of response activity away from the operational area.
  • Triage areas. The primary concern in establishing a temporary landing zone should be aeronautical safety and efficiency of operations. In disaster situations, high priority always is placed on saving lives and relieving the suffering of casualties. Emergency landing zones should be situated close to triage areas to facilitate and expedite patient transport. However, these landing areas should not interfere with triage or medical efforts, further endanger the victims, or add to patient discomfort (noise, rotor wash, and flying debris).
  • Logistical support. Long-term operations require support with fuel, maintenance, flight crew food, fluids, rest, etc. Planning must reflect these needs and provide a means of obtaining the necessary resources. These logistical support requirements are built into the incident command system.
Section V: Accident Reporting

As part of the force protection effort, accidents meeting the following minimum criteria will be reported within 24 hours to the Joint Task Force (JTF) Safety Office:

  • Injury to any military personnel that results in a lost workday
  • Estimated damage of $2,000 or more to any military property or equipment
  • Injury to any civilian resulting from military operations that requires either hospitalization of 24 hours or more or a lost workday(s)
  • Estimated damage to civilian property of $2,000 or more resulting from military operations

The JTF Safety Office will be set up and will be accessible on a 24-hour basis. The phone number will be published to all units within the JTF.

The JTF Safety Office will:

  • Coordinate requirements for Class A and B accident investigations according to DOD criteria (Class A=fatality, permanent total disability, or property or equipment damage estimated to exceed $1 million; Class B=permanent partial disability, three or more personnel hospitalized in one event, or property or equipment damage estimated to exceed $200,000)
  • Forward required accident information to the appropriate service safety center.

At a minimum the following information is to be provided for each accident reported:

  • Name of the person reporting the accident
  • Point of contact telephone number
  • Unit involved in the accident
  • Location of the accident
  • Date and time of the accident
  • Name and rank of personnel involved
  • Extent of injuries
  • Type of property or equipment damage
  • Estimated cost of damage
  • Estimated environmental cost
  • Description of circumstances and events

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias