By Roy Robinson
Fire & Safety Specialists
In today’s society, it has become normal to say, “I was not aware,” and “It is someone else’s responsibility.” Think about what is the “right thing to do,” recognizing that preparedness is a shared responsibility. Shared responsibility goes beyond the organization and calls for the involvement of everyone – not just industry, government or civilian – in preparedness efforts. Working together keeps the nation safe and resilient when natural disasters, terrorism and pandemics strike. Community preparedness includes, but is not limited, to:
• Industry, businesses, facilities, departments
• All levels of government, including state, local, tribal, territorial and federal partners
• Professional associations
• Individuals and families, including those with access and functional needs
• Faith-based and community organizations
• Nonprofit groups
• Schools and academia
• Media outlets
When considering an approach to preparedness, think of “OWN.” What happens before an incident directly influences response to and recovery from an incident.
• O - Ours: All incidents start locally and end locally. So always say loudly and boldly, “It is ours.” The “our” means inclusion of all entities to ensure relationship building before an incident occurs. Leadership, management, political will, intestinal fortitude, fiscal expenditure and legal responsibility often help or impede preparedness efforts. The “our” portion in this statement should always think of safety, fellow employees, citizens, tax base, time and cost to replace experience and the environment before legal responsibility. Industry and community fiscal cutbacks impact preparedness efforts, often means assumption of higher risks and limiting response team cohesion.
• W - Why: What threats and hazards are specific to locale or immediate region. People often refer to attempts as preparing for all-hazards but this approach at preparedness can spread thin with unaffordable, unattainable and unnecessary capabilities. “why” directly affects planning efforts, required training, and exercises/simulations that are used to evaluate plans, policies, procedures and training. If using risk-based planning, always weigh the threats and hazards appropriately to ensure the best chance for success during response and recovery. To identify threats and hazards of significant concern, consider two key factors: likelihood of incident and significance of threat or hazard effects.
- Likelihood of Incident: Likelihood is the chance of something happening, whether defined, measured, or estimated objectively or subjectively. Industry and communities should consider only those threats and hazards that could plausibly occur. As a starting point, industry and communities should consider the threats and hazards that have historically affected them, as well as those threats and hazards that exist regardless of historical occurrence (e.g., earthquakes, industrial accidents or intelligence-driven assessments of potential terrorist attacks). This should include analyzing after-action reports and information about the root causes of threats and hazards (e.g., major floods caused by inadequate levees), as well as consultation with scientists and appropriate subject matter experts. Industry and communities may also consider looking at historical archives (e.g., at the local library) for reports of disasters in the community.
- For threats and hazards for which it is difficult to estimate the likelihood of an incident (e.g., terrorism), industry and communities should consider available intelligence data. Engaging local law enforcement can provide the necessary insight into these types of events in order to focus on plausible threats. Local public health and medical personnel can also offer insight about health-related concerns such as pandemics.
- Industry and communities should take care to not over-rely on historical averages or patterns that may give a false sense of likelihood. For example, many severe natural hazards (such as earthquakes or floods) occur with such low frequency that relying on historical records alone may be misleading. High-magnitude earthquakes, though rare, can have severe consequences and therefore should be considered if the community is at risk for earthquake damage. Industry and communities should also consider the threats and hazards that similar communities have recently responded to iin their planning processes.
- The scale and severity of disasters are growing and will likely pose systemic threats. Changes in demographic trends and technology are making disasters more complex to manage. Population shifts to vulnerable areas and other demographic changes will affect disaster management activities and should be considered in selecting threats and hazards.
- Significance of Threat/Hazard Effects: The threat or hazard effects represent the overall impacts to industry and communities. Industry and communities should consider only those threats and hazards that would have a significant effect on them. Different incidents present different challenges. In some cases, the magnitude of the incident may be substantial; others may involve coordination complexities, regulatory involvement, political sensitivities, or economic and social challenges.
- Industry and communities should not limit their threats and hazards that they would be able to manage but should also consider threats and hazards resulting in large-scale disasters or catastrophic incidents. Industry and communities should consider minimizing preparedness activities associated with threats and hazards of only minor impact, regardless of likelihood.
- Although incidents may have wider regional or national effects, industry and communities should focus strictly on the impacts within their locale. In some cases, it may be useful to include threats and hazards that occur in other locations if they trigger local effects. An industrial accident at a chemical plant located in one particular community could affect people in another community who are downwind from the accident.
• N - Necessities: In preparedness, necessities are considered as plans, organizational structure, equipment, training and exercises. By examining risk and affordability, necessities can be accessed without maintaining unnecessary plans, large fleets of equipment and cadres of people. Eliminate unnecessary training and exercises. Necessities fall into four categories: organic, assigned, earmarked and potential.
- Organic. Organic necessities integral part of the basic structure of an organization and thus are immediately responsive to the leadership of that organization. The organization leadership is responsible for developing, sustaining, and employing these organic necessities.
- Assigned. Assigned necessities are those that supporting entities have agreed to allocate to a supported organization for agreed upon purposes in agreed upon situations. Assignment to supported organizations is automatic once predetermined and pre-agreed situation thresholds are reached. Assignment agreements are regarded as binding.
- Earmarked. Earmarked necessities are those that organizations intend to allocate to a supported organization at some future time and situation. Earmarked necessities are allocated to support other organizations as the situation permits, but their commitment has not been prearranged. These necessities are often formed into a pool of available resources, none of which have been allocated to a given organization.
- Potential. Potential necessities might be allocated to a supported organization in specified circumstances. Potential necessities should not be regarded as a highly reliable resource. Accessibility is determined on a case-by-case basis.
As a result of Hurricane Katrina, the nation decided nationally to “own” preparedness. Through presidential policy directives, acts and other statutes, built build, sustains and delivers the core capabilities needed to achieve preparedness. Industry and communities responsibilities are to improve our industry and community preparedness by considering a wide range of threats and hazards, such as acts of terrorism, cyber-attacks, pandemics and catastrophic natural disasters. Owning preparedness achieves six components:
• Identifying threats or hazards and assessing risks;
• Estimating necessity requirements;
• Building or sustaining necessities;
• Developing and implementing plans to deliver necessities;
• Validating and monitoring progress towards achieving preparedness; and
• Reviewing and updating efforts to promote continuous improvement.