Here at Invictus Consulting, we are all about emergency planning. Putting in the work before an emergency is critical. According to FEMA, “the number, type, and magnitude of decisions and problems that must be addressed during an emergency are a direct outgrowth of decisions that were (or weren’t) make during the planning process.”
It’s worth a detailed look into this statement.
- Decision-makers – The statement above from FEMA assumes that the decision-makers have been identified and trained during the planning process. But it’s worth re-iterating that your organization must identify and train the decision-makers before an emergency. We have come across countless organizations that have decision-making duties written into their emergency action plans that have never actually told the people who are responsible that they’re the responsible decision-makers! On paper it all looks great, but in an actual emergency no one knows who is in charge, no one knows the guiding principles for making decisions, and chaos ensues. Your emergency response team needs to be identified and trained!
- The number of decisions and problems – Think about how many decisions need to be made during an emergency. Obviously the type of emergency dictates some of this, but all emergencies require decisions, and if some of the decisions can be made beforehand, that will ease the burden of decision-makers during the emergency. Also, the more decisions that can be made before an emergency will put decision-makers in a better position to deal with additional (often unforeseen) problems that arise.
- The type of decisions and problems – Obviously the types of decisions and problems vary with the types of emergencies. A tornado barreling towards a school will require different decisions and pose different problems than a breached levee threatening to flood an entire city. This is why it is so critical for each organization to plan ahead. Tabletop exercises are one way to help decision-makers understand the types of decisions and problems they might face during an emergency. A written emergency action playbook for each type of emergency is another way to help decision-makers with their tasks during an emergency. Training is crucial here, as is a clearly defined hierarchy of who makes what decisions.
- The magnitude of decisions and problems – Training and planning ahead help prepare decision-maker understand the magnitude of their task and the magnitude of problems they may face during an emergency. Training for various emergency scenarios is essential, since the magnitude of problems that arise from closing a school early due to an impending snow storm are vastly different from those that arise from closing a school early due to an active shooter. Think about the magnitude of decisions involved in evacuation for two organizations, one with dozens of employees housed in a single building and one with thousands of employees housed in numerous multiple-story buildings on an extensive campus. The magnitude of decisions for something like an evacuation are simply not the same, and this is why organization-specific planning is fundamental to the safety of your people.