Before You Start Your Emergency Plan Update:
Conduct a Risk Assessment
by Roger Mason PhD
Government agencies, especially public safety departments, have limited downtime for planning. When your department is working overtime to meet daily operational demands, it is hard to think about updating any plans. Responsible leaders know they need to have current emergency operations plans. The typical response is to assign someone to jump in and start updating. There is a better way to ensure your planning updates meet your current and future needs.
Department leaders should consider conducting a threat assessment. A threat assessment is an organized approach to determine your current and future operational needs. It will identify your threat spectrum and help you develop performance objectives. An evaluation should be conducted of your concept of operations. If your current concept of operations is already obsolete, it will be difficult to meet future requirements.
Your threat assessment should explore your current key functions. These are your routine and mission-critical activities. Public safety departments must also consider how these functions may change after an emergency. Your appraisal should include what missions will emerge after a disaster occurs.
An essential part of understanding what you do and what needs to improve is your current commitment to active preparation. Public safety departments need to evaluate their preparations, especially with their line supervision. This type of preparation should include management level training and decision-making exercises.
Identifying Your Threat Spectrum
How do you identify your threat spectrum? Several sources should be considered. Your local hazard mitigation plan and the emergency operations plans of the agencies in your area should be reviewed. These plans will list threats that likely involve your city. They should include natural disasters and human-caused threats from accidents to crime.
Performance objectives provide your organization with the expectations and goals for service obligations. The development of performance objectives provides a foundation for your planning updates. If you are upgrading your performance objectives, you will need a corresponding improvement in emergency plans.
Evaluating Your Concept of Operations
An evaluation of your agency’s concept of operations is particularly valuable for chief executives that are new to an organization. Your department’s concept of operations may be adequate but the reason you were hired is to bring your expertise and insights. Your concept of operations is the practical application of your performance objectives. A public safety department may establish improving response times as a critical performance objective. Your concept of operations is the first step in making the performance objective a reality. A clear concept of operations tells managers, supervisors and line employees your approach to solving problems.
Establishing Key Functions
Establishing key functions means identifying what you do. What services do you provide and when do you provide them? Identifying key functions means determining your normal daily functions/services and pinpointing the most important activities as mission critical functions. This also means identifying service levels. The services you provide regularly may be different during a critical incident. Non-mission critical tasks must be identified.
Part of key functions are how governing authorities will expect you to function. You should review NIMS and the latest SEMS updates. Look for any changes in systems like ICS that may impact your operations.
Your world will change after a disaster. Your agency may have new mission requirements. An essential part of your threat assessment is forecasting what missions may look like. One way to accomplish this is by reviewing the operations of similar agencies who were involved in disasters or emergencies. This can be specific to a type of threat (ex: earthquake, terror attack, tornado) or general post-disaster operations. Your threat assessment should include potential missions and how they may impact your key functions.
You should already have a good understanding of your mission and how your agency fulfills it. Active preparations include training and exercises for your department. You should highlight the training and exercises of your line supervisors, management and leadership. If you are not investing training in your leadership then this should be connected to preparing your update.
The best management projects are those that provide secondary benefits. We have described six assessment areas and how they will improve your planning. Are there any other secondary benefits from conducting a threat assessment? This data can be very useful in a variety of forums and different applications. Besides providing you comprehensive plan update data you have current facts about your department. Facts that can be applied to other issues such as budgeting or policy discussions.
You know you are overdue for a plan update. Before you begin the update take some time to organize your effort. By conducting a threat assessment, you can gather critical data that will improve the outcome of your planning update. Forward-thinking leaders want to know where they are at before planning where they need to go. Before jumping into your update consider a threat assessment.
For More Information Contact:
Roger Mason, PhD
340 Rosewood Ave Suite J
Camarillo, Ca 93010
818 693 1668