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Cutting Red Tape In Emergency Response with Proper Planning

Posted on Thu, Nov 08, 2012

Sandy, the super storm and hurricane of October 2012, created havoc on the northeast and mid- Atlantic coast. The storm brought ashore record setting low pressures, historical storm surges and flooding, destructive winds, copious amounts of rain, and blizzard conditions. The effects of the storm were varied and widespread. Typical daily events and critical infrastructures, including finance, transportation, utilities, and healthcare were affected by the storm. The scale of destruction was immense and, as a result, recovery efforts were tedious and widespread.

Improving disaster response capabilities requires coordination across all levels of government and the private and nonprofit sectors. U.S President, Barack Obama, emphasized the need for swift recovery efforts and instructed federal agencies to be flexible and proactive. "There's no excuse for inaction at this point. I want every agency to lean forward and to make sure that we are getting the resources where they're needed as quickly as possible. I want to repeat, my message to the federal government: no bureaucracy; no red tape. Get resources where they're needed as fast as possible, as hard as possible, and for the duration.".

Often in the aftermath of an incident, processes, procedures, and emotions get in the way of an effective response. A lengthy recovery process prolongs human suffering, drives up costs, and impacts companies’ sustainability. It is the goal of emergency planning to minimize response deficiencies in order to recover to normal operations. Pre Planning and exercising interoperability responses can minimize bureaucratic surprises and result in a more effective and timely response.

In 2006, Hurricane Katrina exposed many of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s weaknesses. Companies should take the lessons learned from Katrina and eventually, Sandy, and apply them to enhance their own emergency preparedness program. Communications with external agencies, contractors, medical responders, or other parties must begin in the planning phase of emergency management.  This interoperability planning should also extend to state or federal agencies, local jurisdictions, and suppliers or vendors. Communication is crucial for those contacts who do not participate directly in exercises. Communications left to the aftermath of an incident may result in disorganized and delayed responses.

The Department of Homeland Security identifies 5 elements that can improve emergency response interoperability.

  • Obtain leadership commitment from all disciplines (EMS, Fire, and Police Departments).
  • Foster collaboration across disciplines through leadership support.
  • Interface with policy makers to gain leadership commitment and resource support.
  • Establish relationship sustainability through ongoing communications
  • Plan and budget for ongoing updates to systems, procedures, and documentation.
  • Ensure collaboration and coordination.

Two-way communication cannot begin at the onset of a crisis situation. Companies need to build a response framework that will support comprehensive, collaborative, and coherent preparedness, and implement the concept of sustainability into emergency management endeavors.

A good response framework is only useful if response leadership from collaborative associations is able and willing to make flexible and intuitive decisions in efforts to advance a response. Drills and exercises involving both internal and external responders, including leadership from applicable government agencies, will allow for a better understanding of:

  • Response parameters and protocols
  • Necessary response efforts for the incident
  • Required documentation
  • Prescribed equipment for an effective incident response
  • Personnel requirements
  • Ongoing mitigation measures to minimize threats
  • Viable solutions for unusual scenarios

Collaborative planning and exercise efforts may validate participants’ positions, align priorities and common interests, and motivate participants to seek compromise for the good of an effective response. These preparedness and planning actions may consequently, “cut the red tape”.

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

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Tags: Power Failure, Incident Action Plan, Resiliency, Supply Chain, Disaster Response, National Preparedness, Red Cross