Have a suggestion for our “light reading” book for the year? We usually choose a Stephen King book, but since COVID, it seems we need something a bit lighter, maybe even uplifting. Any suggestions – please include them in the comments.
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We believe the worst-case scenario disaster which will fall on Emergency Management is the Electro-Magnetic Pulse wave (EMP) from a low-atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device over the United States. This will have catastrophic impacts to the continuity of operations / continuity of government (COOP/COG) for emergency management (EM). It is the maximum of maximums (MOM).
We are building an advanced table-top exercise for this scenario and welcome your thoughts and comments. It will be usable by single entries, any level jurisdiction, all thr way up through an international multi-player exercise. The concept is the same: When you have no comms and no modern transportation and of course no electricity nor electronic devices, what do you expect/order your staff to do next? Take care of themselves and their families or do everything they can to get to work/stay at work? And do they know now what they are supposed to do if such a scenario should occur?
A Hot Wash is a term used for the immediate after-action review conducted after exercises (usually performed at functional or full-scale exercises, but can be done on any type of exercise) and real-world incidents. The term comes from the haz-mat (hazardous-materials) responder world, where the immediacy of decontamination is needed, due to being “hot” (having bad stuff still on you). The time to make corrective action is now – or at least identify where there are strengths and opportunities (positives and negatives). Once these items are identified as changes needed to be made to the Plans, Organization (staffing pattern and levels), Equipment, Training, and (future) Exercises – the POETE – they should be organized into four categories:
Sustain – longer-term strengths which should be continued
Quick Fix – short-term opportunities which have little or low cost to implement
Improve – medium to longer-term opportunities which have a higher cost to implement
Parking Lot – those strengths and/or opportunities which need further discussion – and POETE, and are beyond the scope of this incident and/or exercise.
Some of the After Action Reports on major incidents, we have found on the web. Know of any others available as OSINT (Open Source Intelligence – items available to the public, not classified or sensitive)? Please add in the comments. If any of these links are broken, please let us know via an e-mail to email@example.com.
After Action Reporting is a formal process conducted after both real-world incidents and exercises. It involves an independent review of the actions and gaps (strengths and opportunities) of those groups responding, based on their plans. Barton Dunant can help with After Action Reporting – drop us a line to learn more.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The following photo shows what can happen when well-meaning people send unsolicited items to a disaster site. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, large piles of used clothing, shoes, food, and household goods sent to Port-au-Prince went unclaimed and began spoiling, attracting rats and other vermin. Not only did these become a health hazard for aid workers and people living nearby, they also clogged up the runway used for relief flights. In the end, these piles of goodwill had to be bulldozed off the airstrip and burned as garbage.
Diversion of Time and Space
For many people, donating stuff feels good because they are giving tangible items that one might give to a friend in need. But unsolicited items can clog supply chains and disrupt disaster operations by taking up valuable space needed by aid groups to receive and distribute critical relief supplies. Managing these donations diverts aid workers’ time and attention from the task of providing life-saving aid. Also, managing piles of unsolicited items can force aid groups to change logistical and distribution plans, adding more work and cost to their humanitarian mission.
Chandeliers to Rwanda. Fertility drugs to Haiti. As the illustration shows, donations of food and clothing can be unnecessary, culturally/religiously inappropriate, and in some cases, downright unhealthy. Donations of canned goods or food are rarely beneficial, and the collection of bottled water is highly inefficient, as both food and potable water can be purchased at local markets close to the disaster area. In addition, used clothing frequently goes unused. In fact, 38 countries have banned the importation of used clothing, and 28 additional countries have severely restricted imports.
Transportation: Costly and Complicated
Unsolicited donations are expensive to send. They incur more costs every time they change hands and leave a big carbon footprint in their wake. Transporting “stuff” to a disaster site is far more costly and complicated than slapping a stamp on a care package. How costly? Check out our Greatest Good Donations Calculator. What you will learn may surprise you.
A common misconception is that the U.S. government or relief agencies will transport donations free of charge, or even for a fee. This is not true. Individuals or organizations that collect and send donated items are responsible for paying for transportation and related expenses – including customs fees – at commercial rates. Therefore, it is important that transportation arrangements are secured before any kind of material donations are collected.
Things to Consider
Before collecting material donations, you should consider the following things. Otherwise, your donation may end up burdening the relief effort it seeks to support:
Has a credible relief organization identified a need for the items being requested?
Is an organization prepared to receive, manage, and distribute the items you’re sending?
Have the costs of transportation, shipping, warehousing and distribution been calculated and covered?
Who is handling customs tariffs, fees and other cross-border requirements?
Have quality assurance requirements from the host government been met?
From the New Jersey Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (www.njvoad.org).
Also known as Emergency Assembly Points, Evacuation Assembly Areas, Emergency Assembly Station, etc.
These are the designated areas (or area) outside of a work facility where people should go, if the building needs to be evacuated. Check in with first-responders or members of your Crisis Action Team. Do not go back into the building until instructed to do so. These locations should be safer than staying inside of the building, during an evacuation incident – your life safety is the top priority. They may be located on-property or off-property, depending on the site selected by your organization’s leadership, facilities management and/or emergency management teams. They may also be marked with a sign – or not – but at a minimum your crisis action plan should include a floor plan/location map which shows where each of these Emergency Assembly Areas (EAA) are located.
If there are more than one EAA location, you should be designated to a primary location and a backup one, if possible. A multi-story office building may have multiple EAAs by floor or company or some other method. When you evacuate, go to your primary EAA if possible – what is key is that you check in with the Crisis Action Team or other responders for accountability. There may be further instructions – or even further evacuations or transportation – at that EAA.
If the EAA is unsafe (for example, if it is too close to an ongoing threat in the building, like a fire), go to the alternate EAA. If you have to leave the building due to an active assailant attack, go anywhere that is safer, contact first responders (like 9-1-1) and ask them where to go.
We prefer the term “safer” rather than “safe” – a Safer Room (TM) in an office (or perhaps even a home or other business) is one where people can go to during a shelter-in-place event or incident and they will be saferthan they would be at their normal work location. Safer Rooms should have some specific features, which make them more conducive for a number of people to shelter-in-place – or even “hide” during an active assailant attack – at the same time.
We recommend using a small symbol on a removable magnet to indicate which are the Safer rooms. This would be known to the staff only (and communicated on demand to visitors, as needed) and should be consistent to all of the work locations so that staff who visit other locations know what to look for. During a Lockdown, if Safer rooms are used to “Hide” , once all the people have evacuated into the Safer room, the last person takes the symbol magnet off, so that anyone else (like a threat actor) does not know this is a Safer Room. Everyone inside needs to follow their organization’s Lockdown protocols as to when to end the use of the Safer Room and what to do next.
Safer Rooms should:
Have solid walls and a lockable solid door – so that someone from the outside cannot easily see in or get in. Small windows on the door should have a curtain or some other device to block inward view quickly. This helps provide Cover.
Have large items to block doors (such as cabinets or tables). Also small items to throw at an attacker (like staplers, trash cans, etc.) if necessary.
Have a light switch to turn off the lights – it helps to have the room number marked on the light switch, so you can let emergency responders know where you are located.
Have at least one working power outlet and a number of chargers and cables for cell phones
Have a landline (or VOIP) phone – in case cell service is spotty or poor.
Have a signal page with green on one side and red on the other to either slip half-way under the door or post in the exterior window – use only if instructed by your leadership or first responders (via your communications devices, not from someone “shouting out” commands in the hallway) – the green side out (or out) indicates everyone in that room is okay, the red side indicates medical/health emergencies exist.
Have some bottled water and sweet snacks – people might be in this room for a while and need to take medications or have low blood sugar, etc.
If the room has a window and is on a floor where someone could escape the room through that window, have a device to break the window (a hammer, for example) if the window does not normally open enough on its own to let someone exit.
Barton Dunant can help you design your crisis action plans, make recommendations for safer rooms and provides table-top and functional exercises for your organization to test your plans. Learn more about starting a crisis action plan by clicking here.
Safer Room is a trademark of York Drive, LLC. Used with permission.
Findings on public understanding and decision-making for evacuation and shelter-in-place protective actions.
Recommendations for improving public messaging to inform the public about risk and to increase compliance with instructions to evacuate or to shelter-in-place.
Some key recommendations to emergency managers include:
Understand the potential impediments to action and take steps to address these barriers in advance.
Make evacuation decisions easier by only issuing mandatory evacuation orders.
Provide residents and tourists with multiple ways to know if they are in a zone under an evacuation order.
Use multiple, authoritative messaging channels that include photos or links to other visual information about the hazard and encourage individuals to share this information with friends and families.
Provide frequent updates with information that can reduce the stress of the unknown related to evacuation.
Although this literature review identified similarities and differences in attitudes and behaviors related to multiple types of hazards, the largest set of research is associated with hurricanes. The research team acknowledges more research should be conducted on little- or no-notice incidents, such as wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes, as well as manmade emergencies such as chemical spills.
World Health, O. (2005). Effective media communication during public health emergencies : a WHO field guide / Randall N. Hyer, Vincent T. Covello. In. Geneva: World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/43477
Barton Dunant has workshops through a course on Skillshare, on the elements of a Crisis Communications Team – as organized by POETE (Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training and Exercising). This will help your organization build or refine your Crisis Communications Team Plan. We also have a series of increasingly complex exercises for your Crisis Communications Team.
The FBI has a great checklist for before, during and after an incident, for Public Information Officers (PIOs) to help with Crisis Communications. We have included a free download link to it.