The disaster in Atlanta resulting form winter storm Leon has many people asking, could this happen in our city? How do we prevent the shut down of a city or major metropolitan area again? Our last blog article addressed how to maximize resources and support first responders. In the next few articles we will focus on how to best use an Emergency Operations Plan and the members of your ICS team. Let’s begin at the beginning:
During any disaster or emergency people instinctively ask, “What do I do first?” While a quick response is valuable, the true initial question should be “What is my job relative to my position in the Incident Command System (ICS) framework?” Ask yourself what your roles and responsibilities are, what tasks stem from those roles and responsibilities, and how you should be interacting with the other ICS section chiefs. The ICS structure is designed to create an interconnected fabric that is strong and pliable, allowing for a coordinated response that can mitigate complex and evolving incidents. It can help avoid the natural instinct to make a linear, bullet point action list than can create a tunnel vision effect.
Once you are clear in your role and the ICS structure, then you can ask yourself the following questions:
1) What do I need to do to fulfill my role? Make sure you have a macro view of what your position is intended to accomplish.
2) Who do I need to talk to? Communication is critical during any disaster or emergency. Effective communications within the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is necessary to ensure that every person in a leadership position has as much information available to improve the timeliness and quality of their decisions and actions.
3) What are my priorities? Your job in the EOC comes with specific responsibilities and requirements. What are your priorities as you assume this role?
4) What will others need from me? Many people believe that emergency plans are best accomplished if every person has a list of tasks to be accomplished. This is based on the faulty belief that once all of the tasks have been accomplished the problem has been solved. If the members of the EOC operate in a vacuum where they only concentrate on their direct responsibilities the ability to solve evolving contingencies is lessened. Every job in the EOC requires information, support and sometimes concurrence from other section chiefs. When you are not communicating you are limiting your capability for effective problem solving.
5) Where do I need to be at the end of this Operational Period (OP)
An OP is a define period of time where a coordinated plan is put into effect. This ensures that there are continual efforts to assess and respond to the emergency and that those efforts can be measured.
Keep in mind what your specific role is in addressing the OP and look ahead. Ask yourself where you want to be by the end of the OP. Doing so will help you balance specific task accomplishment with the overall goals of the OP. This is similar to the basic rule for test taking: do not take the entire test period to solve only one or two problems, rather move on to solve as many as you can right away and then return to the sticklers and give them some focused attention
Embracing this way of approaching the problem will help eliminate tunnel vision, or worse, chaos and disorganization. It may feel counter-intuitive to “slow down” when the sky (or the snow) is falling, but taking a moment at the beginning of a critical incident or disaster to center yourself and your team members is crucial. Join us in the following days as we continue to respond to the Atlanta Snow Out 2014. We would love to be of service, so contact us with any questions or concerns.