This article is directed toward chiefs and sheriffs. Of course, all other law enforcement officers will benefit from this article by using it as a resource for professional development. As with all developmental resource material, it is highly recommended for all officers to pass this information along to the appropriate leadership in their department.
Emergency management (EM) is a statement or phrase often used with the same thought as using the phrase “riot control” — a thought with no meaning behind it. Because other spur-of-the-moment problems, situations and incidents occur so often in an administrator’s daily working environment, EM always seems to be relegated to the back of the bus and is seldom, if ever, reviewed or updated until a situation occurs that requires using it.
The importance of EM should not be diminished or minimized by administrators, nor should administrators permit elected officials to diminish or minimize its importance because of budgetary issues. The failure of administrators and elected officials to address the EM policy and procedures has been demonstrated time and again via disasters that were either accounted for (but seldom occur) or disasters that are unexpected such as the “100-year flood” no one thought would happen.
When administrators assume command of their respective agency, several administrative oversight procedures are required and necessary for the administrator to gain a grasp of what has been done, what is being done and what needs to be done. EM is the administrative review that must be done by the administrator within the first six months of assuming command. The lives of the citizens the administrator has taken an oath to protect depend on it and an administrator’s failure to update or create EM policy fails everyone.
So, what should administrators do to ensure the EM policies and procedures are current and address every potential natural or human-made disaster? First, the administrator needs to gather all policy and procedure manuals (SOPs), letters of instruction (LOIs), memorandums of agreement (MOAs), memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and contracts in their agency to determine what addresses EM incidents when they occur, what should address EM incidents but don’t, and what addresses EM incidents but shouldn’t.
Administrators need to be proficient in contracts and researching and promulgating policy to be effective. Critical thinking skills are also a must. An example would be thinking about earthquakes and fault lines: I recalled an earthquake while still on active military duty and living in the area years before becoming a chief. With that in mind, I researched the incident and discovered the city he was employed by was dead center of a fault line that seismologists still considered a major fault line. When I coordinated with the county’s EM director and queried about EM policy for earthquakes, I discovered none had been promulgated. It was at my insistence that an EM policy would be researched and promulgated. As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Administrators need to ensure all agencies and necessary businesses are part of the EM policy, are aware that they are part of that policy, and are always included in any changes and training events for that policy. Administrators need to ensure contracts with vendors such as port-a-potties, buses (both school and commercial), meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) or another similar type of meal and any other resource necessary to successfully work through the disaster have been implemented into the EM plan.
The agencies that should be involved in every EM plan should be the sheriff, all chiefs of police within that county, state police, risk management, the county and city traffic and engineering divisions, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT), airport and hospital management, the governor’s office, all agencies responsible for water and wastewater operations, power companies and FEMA. Administrators should also identify, consider and include citizens (like truck drivers) with CB radios to help with communications. As a plan is developed, other agencies may be identified and will need to be included. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan you plan to fail.
Administrators and personnel researching and promulgating EM plans should also be knowledgeable and capable of using decision-making models such as Six Sigma or the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). The AHP model can be a good tool when promulgating an EM plan because the model requires weighted values on specified criteria, thereby easing or eliminating any bias or uncertainty between the entities using it. Using models aids in a myriad of instances and can also be helpful to administrators and others who are involved in the EM plan process.
The importance of including community businesses in any EM plan cannot be understated. In “Full speed ahead” (Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, 2020), Vincent B. Davis cites FEMA as reporting that 40% of businesses never reopen after a disaster and 25% of businesses that do reopen fail within one year. The economic chaos and loss due to a disaster is detrimental to any community because jobs are lost, and all support and welfare resources have to be found — and are most likely depleted — to help the citizens of the community.
When administrators include local businesses when developing an EM plan, the opportunity to train business owners and staff on what can be done before (when an alert is given like with a tornado), during and after a disaster helps that business fully recover. A good example of disaster recovery is the company Cantor Fitzgerald. This company occupied several of the top floors of one of the World Trade Center buildings during the 9/11 terrorist attack. Because the company had an EM plan requiring employees to “work from home” and maintained copies of all files at other locations, this company was able to function two days after the attack.
Administrators should also include in any EM disaster plan policy and procedure for civil disturbances and civil unrest such as riots, looting and assaults. Developing and creating an Emergency Response Team (ERT) as used by the Clearwater, Florida, police department may be unrealistic for small communities but is a viable option for larger communities. Administrators should identify and locate other similar ERTs, speak with leaders and personnel, obtain all SOPs and supporting/governing laws, and conduct a thorough review to create an ERT viable to the geographic location and circumstances of the involved LE agency. Any EM disaster plan without a plan to respond to incidents of civil unrest and/or criminal activity defeats the overall intention of an EM plan.
Administrators should consider assigning one or more members of the command staff to dedicated EM operations. Assigning specific personnel to EM operations avoids gaps in information, training and experience and permits the administrator to send those personnel to training and schools specific to EM operations. Crue and Francis, in “As the field of emergency management evolves, is it time to enhance its training methods?” (Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, 2019), advocate for training and constant review and analysis of available training to ensure personnel trained in EM operations remain proficient and informed on current trends and provide honest input for the purpose of change in the training curriculum to ensure situations and processes newly discovered reach the training level. Researching and obtaining information from established ERTs is imperative to ensure continuity of training, policy and procedure throughout the LE industry.
Accountability is another area administrators must ensure is clearly defined and established in every EM plan. How often do we read or hear in the news that millions or billions of dollars were unaccounted for and/or supplies were found stored in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere and never distributed as planned? Administrators have oversight and responsibility of the budget, personnel and supplies their agency uses, so why not have the same type of oversight and designated personnel responsible and accountable for the money and logistics during an emergency?
Normally, EM operations rely on external and internal accountability or the “top down” and “local” models of accountability. Jayasinghe, Kenney, Prasanna and Velasquez (“Enacting ‘accountability in collaborative governance’: lessons in emergency management and earthquake recovery from the 2010–2011 Canterbury Earthquakes,” Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, 2019) discuss how collaborative governance provided greater oversight after two earthquakes in New Zealand devastated the Province of Canterbury. The term “accountability in collaborative governance” represents a more multifaceted and holistic model than other narrowly defined conceptions of accountability such as financial, political or social. If an administrator and other managers overseeing the operations of an EM event cannot maintain control of the fiscal and logistical aspects of the event, they are failing the citizens of their community and failing in their responsibility and duty to protect and defend the citizens they are charged to serve.
In summary, administrators and personnel involved in EM planning should visualize the hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, gas explosion, uncontrolled wildfire, tanker spill of a toxic chemical on a highway, railway, secondary road, etc., from the time of notification until the disaster is declared “clear.” Once the “all clear” command has been given and the clean-up operations have ceased, administrators can then conduct the After-Action Review (AAR) to answer questions such as where they succeeded, what they did wrong and what could have been done better. Once a complete and thorough review with all parties involved in that particular EM operation has been completed and all parties involved have provided input, then the administrator and other parties can revamp and update the EM plan so all parties are better prepared for the next incident.