Disaster Preparedness and Response

NSPE Position Statement No. 1753
Adopted: July 2010

It is clear that disasters caused by terrorism, nature, infrastructure deterioration, or accidents are a threat to public health and safety. When disasters occur, sensible planning to mitigate the effect of these occurrences must include preparation, fortification, early warning, and law enforcement.

Emergency response is a critical factor in the resilience of our infrastructure and the long-term well-being of our nation's citizens. Optimized disaster management requires the quick coordination of civilian, defense, federal, state, and local agencies.

In support of the initial emergency responders (i.e., police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and the National Guard), and only after lives and property are secured, protected, and saved, professional engineers and other professional and technically oriented volunteers can assist in these efforts by making their expertise and capabilities available for the difficult task of analyzing risks, evaluating damage, and reconstruction efforts. These individuals would agree to make themselves available to work as part of an overall emergency response team.

Inasmuch as the professional engineer's role is to protect public health and safety, free voluntary professional services should be restricted to evaluation and assessment services that are needed following the initial response efforts of first responders.

For the above stated reasons, NSPE recommends the development of a National Registry of Volunteers and Professional Engineers that includes individuals who are willing to serve and who possess proven technical, managerial, and logistical experience as secondary responders. These NRVPE personnel can be utilized by local, state, and federal agencies to supplement recovery efforts that follow disasters.

NSPE advocates the recruitment of volunteer professional engineers to populate a national registry of volunteers. NSPE recommends the verification or assessment of volunteer credentials and believes that an exclusive registry can be maintained through periodic training and education of volunteer professional engineers. NSPE supports engineers going into disaster areas only after they have been cleared to make judgments on structural integrity and other engineering related issues. NSPE further supports the state by state need for insurance requirements and liability coverage and the creation of Good Samaritan laws to protect all parties from frivolous lawsuits arising from voluntary service by members of the NRVPE. Finally, NSPE believes that close coordination with other organizations involved in national and regional responses to disasters will enable quick and effective deployment of professional engineer volunteers.

NSPE should solicit a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Emergency Management to develop the registry. This could be an ongoing grant to keep this registry up-to-date.