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In Disasters, First Responders Are Us

September 12, 2011

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In the 2010 earthquake that killed 300,000 people in Haiti, only 211 trapped victims were saved by official first responders.

"The real first responders are the bystanders. Those that are in the event -- they are saving lives," said Dr. Isaac Ashkenazi, professor of disaster medicine at Ben-Gurion University and a world expert on disaster response and crisis leadership. He spoke at a Forum held at Harvard School of Public Health on September 6 to look at the lessons learned in disaster response in the decade post 9/11.

Emergency planners now have official monikers for ordinary people: if we are in the disaster area and are ambulatory or uninjured, we are no longer referred to as "victims" but as "survivors" or "active bystanders." We are, in aggregate, "a resilient population."

Public officials have learned a lot about citizen capabilities and now understand that disaster response preparation has to include us or else valuable rescue time is wasted.

Read more of the Yahoo news story here>>

Watch Prof. Ashekenazi's Harvard Forum session on leadership in crisis (clip #6)>>

Read or download the transcript of the Forum here>>