The initial response to an intentional mass-casualty event will be from uninjured bystanders and minimally injured victims; these are the people that may be able to save the lives of severely injured persons. Because bystanders are usually on scene before first responders (fire, police, paramedic), the DHS has a national campaign to teach civilians how to stop severe bleeding so that victims can survive until first responders arrive on scene. People can die from blood loss in less than five minutes, so it is critical that the bleeding is stopped immediately.
Vice-President Joe Biden, Jr. said, “When tragedy strikes anywhere in this nation, the willingness and capability of everyday citizens to take action instead of being passive bystanders can mean the difference between life or death. With very little training and equipment, the individuals closest to the scene of an accident or mass casualty situation can control bleeding until first responders arrive to take over treatment.”
By getting first aid training and by understanding the procedures for stopping bleeding, we may help achieve the goal of saving lives during mass casualty events.
Persons with disabilities or functional needs are an important consideration when creating your Emergency Action Playbook. Individuals with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, mental retardation, autism, hearing impairment, visual impairment, individuals in wheelchairs, those with limited English proficiency, and persons with other physical, sensory, cognitive, or intellectual disabilities need to be taken in to account when planning for emergencies and disasters.
Typical emergency plans assume that most individuals are able-bodied, can walk independently, can use stairs independently, and can follow directions appropriately. With assumptions like these, individuals who cannot perform one or more of these tasks are left without a plan for what to do in an emergency. While most buildings and spaces have access measures for persons with physical disabilities (e.g., wheelchair ramps), the same is not necessarily true for individuals with sensory or processing disorders. While it may be possible for individuals with various disabilities to function in the workplace or a school on a day-to-day basis, we should not assume that the same holds for emergency situations.
A few suggestions:
Include disabled individuals in the creation of your emergency plan
Ask your disabled employees or students what accommodations they might need in an emergency situation
Set up a buddy system if necessary
Practice your emergency operations, taking note of individuals with special needs to determine which procedures need adjusting
Practice your emergency operations over and over until all of the kinks have been worked out for those individuals with special needs
There are some online resources that give more detailed ideas about involving individuals with disabilities in emergency planning. Here at Invictus Consulting we are not experts on individuals with disabilities or legislation regarding such persons, although we do have personal experience on this front and know the value in including special needs persons in your emergency plans. The links below will point you to tips and ideas but should not be considered templates for use by your school, business, or organization; rather they should be viewed as a jumping off point for adjusting your own emergency operations plan to include individuals with special needs.
Bomb threats are quite rare, but they should always be taken seriously until the threat has been proved fraudulent. How quickly and safely you react to a bomb threat could save lives, including your own. Most bomb threats are made by phone, and this is why it’s important to have a bomb threat check list posted near telephones in your place of business.
Keeping the caller on the line as long as possible is an invaluable tactic when dealing with a bomb threat call. By keeping them on the line and talking, the listener can glean more information such as the caller’s gender, accent, background sounds (e.g., animals, office or factory machinery, street noise), type of threat language (e.g., incoherent, taped message, well-spoken), estimated age, as well as other characteristics that can help law enforcement. After the caller has terminated the call, immediately call 911 and give them as much detail as you gathered.
Call 9-1-1 immediately and report a bomb threat to local law enforcement providing as much detail as you can.
Follow law enforcement instructions.
Evacuate the area and seek protective cover from the bomb and potential debris—these are the best ways to avoid injury.
Do NOT approach or inspect suspicious items or unattended packages.
Do NOT congregate near the incident scene as onlookers may impede first responders and law enforcement.
Bomb threats are one of those issues that most people ignore because they are so rare and will probably never happen in their place of work. While it may be true that the probability of a bomb going off at your place of work or school is minimal, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare for it and have a plan in place. An evacuation for a bomb threat looks very similar to a fire evacuation; practicing your evacuation routes and procedures as well as posting the bomb threat checklist by phones and training your employees on its use are easy steps to take.
If you’ve been around the Invictus blog for a while, you know that we are serious about schools, companies, and organizations drilling their emergency plans on a regular basis. Today we want to talk about how to expand your drills to make them more effective.
First, we should clarify that the term “drill” is actually a very specific type of exercise. We tend to use this term to generally mean practicing any part of an emergency plan, but a “drill” actually tests a specific operation or function. For example, teachers may drill how to lock their doors during a lockdown scenario.
There is an established step-wise progression for expanding your exercise program to effectively track progress and make changes where necessary. A brief explanation and example for each follows:
Step 1: Seminar
This should be the beginning of your exercise program. It is a discussion-based step that is basically an orientation to the emergency plan. Here participants listen to a speaker introduce the plan with the goal of creating a common framework of understanding amongst administration/executives and employees. [Example: school administration speak to the faculty about their new emergency operations plan and give the faculty a copy of the plan.]
Step 2: Workshop
After a seminar, your exercise program should move on to workshops. These are also discussion-based, but workshops are more interactive than seminars and may include break-out groups discussing ideas or coming up with ways to improve the plan. The goal here is to improve your plan or create new facets of the plan. [Example: school administration, faculty, and staff meet together to work on the lockdown portion of the emergency operations plan and have break-out groups to discuss how it would look for each classroom and how to improve the process.]
Step 3: Tabletop Exercise
A tabletop exercise is also a discussion-based step in your exercise program. In this step, participants process through and problem solve a hypothetical situation. The goal here is identify strengths and weaknesses in the plan before conducting live exercises. [Example: school administration and faculty/staff that are part of the Emergency Response Team sit down to problem solve through an active shooter on campus.]
Step 4: Drill
This is the first operation-based step in an exercise program; the three prior steps are all conducted in a meeting room sitting down discussing ideas while this step involves players physically going through an exercise. As noted above, a true “drill” only practices one specific operation or function, like learning how to use new equipment or practicing skills. The goal here is to prepare participants for a more detailed exercise. [Example: teachers learn how to use the new door stops which will be used during a lockdown.]
Step 5: Functional Exercise
This step is the one most people associate with doing a safety drill. This step is operations-based and, unlike a drill, involve multiple operations or functions. The goal here is to simulate an emergency and have participants practice the emergency plan. [Example: faculty and students practice an entire lockdown procedure.]
Step 6: Full-Scale Exercise
This final step is similar to the previous one but includes cooperation of responding agencies, deployment of actual resources, and more realistically simulates an emergency. The goal here is to see how things progress if an actual incident takes place. [Example: school administration, faculty, staff, students, and local police and fire engage in an active shooter exercise with a simulated active shooter on premises, deployment of fire and police responders, and deployment of mass notification.]
It’s important to note that an exercise program is a multi-year endeavor where you build upon past exercises and learn from your successes and failures. It’s okay to keep using the word “drill” in your place of employment or even your home as you practice fire evacuation with your children. The terminology is not essential; what is essential is that you practice your emergency plans, both via discussions and action-based exercises. What is also essential is that you learn from your exercises; don’t just go through the motions and check off the box that the drill has been done for the year. Over time improve your exercises, improve your performance, and change your plan as necessary.
There has been debate over the past few years about the use of smart phones at school. Educators are obviously aware of the negative ways that cell phones impact student life – texting, snap chatting, tweeting, and emailing during class; cheating during tests; cyberbullying; taking and sharing lewd photos; and general distractedness during the school day. Parents, on the flip side, find that smart phones allow then to coordinate after school activities with their children, keep tabs on their child’s whereabouts (via phone tracking apps), and reach their child during an emergency.
Interestingly, the use of cell phones during an emergency is pointed out by some security experts as a reason to completely disallow mobile devices at schools. It is true that there are multiple ways that students with cell phones impede emergency efforts. Students can (inadvertently) spread false information; they may miss life-saving directions if they’re on their phone; they may overload the phone lines, which prohibits the Crisis Response Team from making important calls or first responders from getting through via phone lines; and they often cause parents to flock to the school which impedes the ability of first responders to reach the school, impedes lockdown procedures, and impedes reunification procedures.
With that said, we here at Invictus Consulting do not beleive that banning cell phones from the school is the answer to these problems. As parents ourselves, we understand the reality that smart phones are here to stay. In fact, we forsee smart phones becoming even more pervasive in our lives and that includes our children’s lives and their schools.
We are not going to tell your school whether or not you should allow or disallow mobile devices on campus. There are clear benefits and drawbacks to both sides. However, if a school chooses to allow mobile devices on campus, we do recommend the following points when it comes to cell phone usage during emergencies:
Add specific verbiage into your Emergency Operations Plan indicating clearly when cell phone usage is and is not acceptable
Drill you emergency plan (e.g., hard lockdown, soft lockdown, shelter-in-place) and explicitly include cell phone policies into the drill (e.g., checking that students are not using their phones, have silenced their phones, are explicitly aware of the cell phone policy)
Educate students, parents, and faculty on the cell phone policy as relates to emergencies so that they know when they are and are not allowed to use their phones
Have a strong mass notification system for individuals on campus as well as an emergency notification system for parents off campus so that everyone can rest assured that all individuals will be notified and be kept aware of the situation in real time
Orders of succession are an important part of both day-to-day operations and an organization’s continuity of operations plan. Orders of succession provide for the orderly and pre-defined assumption of senior leadership positions in the event that senior leadership are unavailable, debilitated, or incapable of performing their duties, roles, and responsibilities. Strong and clear leadership is a fundamental pillar of success during a major emergency or disaster.
Orders of succession are especially important during emergency events, when portions of an organization’s personnel may be injured, incapacitated, dead, or simply stuck in a place without access to communication methods. By having a succession of people that is at least three people deep, your organization stands a better chance of continuing operations smoothly. If possible, having at least one of the individuals on the succession list be a person whose day-to-day job is at a different location than the main facility will also improve the smooth transition of leadership during an emergency.
The United States government has a clear line of succession were the president incapacitated, dead, resigned, or removed from office. Let’s take a little quiz to see if you know our government’s line of succession.
Place the following offices in order of succession to the President of the United States:
Secretary of Defense
Speaker of the House
Secretary of State
Secretary of the Treasury
President pro tempore of the Senate
Orders of succession are commonly found in governments and monarchies, but the principal is a solid concept for businesses, schools, and smaller organizations as well. Having a plan of who will be in charge and make decision in the event that current leadership is unable to do so is an important part of emergency preparedness.