What Is the Role of Police in Disaster Management?

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Man-made disasters such as bomb explosions and arson cause a sense of vulnerability. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires all cause specific damage and chaos. A strong police presence in both situations may help ease fears and help prevent others from taking advantage of the situation.

1 Crowd Control

Disaster situations draw crowds. There are people hoping for a glimpse of the unfolding drama. Family members and friends of the victims show up, hoping to glean information about their loved ones. The people involved in the situation also mill around, sometimes while injured or in shock. The police cordon off areas and work to keep crowds under control.

2 Public Safety

Officers might go from house to house searching for the injured or those who need help. They can offer transportation, emergency medical care and be a bridge between citizens and rescue personnel. They can check credentials and identification to see if someone really needs to be in the area. They may warn people when electric wires are on the ground, when dangerous pests are lurking or when unstable people are nearby.

3 Directing Traffic

Many disasters wipe out infrastructures such as electricity, making an unsafe situation for traffic and pedestrians. The police can close unsafe roads where downed wires, trees or flood situations might make travel unsafe. They direct citizens through nonworking traffic lights. They reroute random traffic to safer roads and try to keep out all unnecessary traffic. They can put roadblocks in the areas where the crisis is underway.

4 Organizing Search Teams

Disaster situations often lead to family members being separated. Elderly and single people are at risk if they have no one to check on them. If these citizens wander around, problems may result. The police can set up search teams and put together systems where loved ones can check on one another. They can set up command centers where the victims and family may be reunited. They work with emergency personnel to list the various medical facilities used for treating sick or injured people.

5 Looters

There are those who take advantage of a chaotic situation. When people are evacuated from homes or neighborhoods, houses are unsupervised and opportunities to commit crime may be rampant. Police presence may help to deter looting. If looting does occur, the police are ready to apprehend suspects.

Renee Winship is a published author and has worked in the family restaurant and catering business and has also worked in a medical lab facility. She's an adoptive parent and has worked in daycare. Winship has written more than 200 articles for Suite 101 and other online publications. She attended Southwest Missouri State University in Missouri with a nursing major.