Crisis Management and the First Responder

This article is intended to discuss the role of the first responder in the process of crisis management. In our turbulent times we should expect to be summoned to any number of potential catastrophic incidents. Some of these may be natural disasters while others are manmade. Regardless of the genesis, we must be prepared both mentally and operationally. The beginning of this article will inform the reader about the crisis management process and its planning; this is to ensure awareness of the framework that will be present at organizations that have management plans and how first responders fit into the response and recovery phases.

When we refer to crisis management, we should focus on the buildup that compliments this stage in response operations. Good crisis management plans should be established in advance of the crisis. These plans should be borne out of best practices, national standards and lessons learned from previous incidents. There is no need to reinvent the wheel of crisis management; a great many lessons have been learned over the years and they can be leveraged to cement your individual mitigation, response and recovery planning. The next step in crisis management planning is to develop the response plan. These are the processes and procedures to be utilized when answering the call; they identify key roles and responsibilities that are carried out at the initial and developing stages of response operations. When bundled together, the crisis management and response plans lay the groundwork that leads to recovery and restoration.

Establishing the Crisis Team

When you develop your crisis management plans, you will need to identify key stakeholders to serve as members of your crisis team. These members will provide subject area input and help in the restoration and recovery process. These are the key players who know the most about their core function areas and are the best source of information required to identify priorities in restoration and recovery actions. Once identified, the crisis team should be engaged as active participants in plan development, reviews, updates and exercises. It is through these evolutions that the nuances of the plan are refined to accurately capture all the elements of a particular organization.
Ideally there should be a functional survey of your organization to identify who are key personnel within the organization that must be part of the plan development team, followed by those who should be part of the plan development team and then outside stakeholders to be engaged in the plans development. While the specific members will vary according to your organizations mission, functions and identified needs, the following highlights likely participants.

Internal: Executive Leadership, Management Team, Critical Systems, Information Technology, Corporate Communications, Workforce/Employee Reprehensive, Safety and Security.

External: Local Police, Fire and Emergency Services, Local Government Representative.

Additional Members: Supporting Suppliers and Business Partners.

The Crisis Response Continuum

Upon activation, the incident response procedures developed should be implemented as an automatic function. A well established and practiced plan will come to life and serve its intended purpose for the duration of need. Failing to ensure the plan is ingrained into daily operations and awareness can result in significant and fragmented activation, causing delays and potentially impacting the recovery phase.
Staff must be aware of plan implementation procedures and how it is activated. They should understand that there may be times when senior leadership is unable to provide on-scene guidance and they will be the ones who effect the plans activation. It is they who will coordinate the critical incept period to ensure appropriate measures are implemented. This is why empowering staff is so critical and why even the most junior members should be involved in rehearsing and exercising the plan. While in an ideal situation, senior management will be on-hand to guide response and recovery actions, the reality is that depending on the incidents specifics they may be unavailable or incapacitated. This is a key consideration to include in plan development and exercises.

The First Responders Role

As the introduction to crisis management shows, a thoughtful and prepared organization should have an established crisis management plan, and that plan should have included law enforcement in their plan development process. This is not a guarantee but if the planning process took under review national standards and best practices there would have been some level of engagement with public safety agencies on the local level.

Depending on the mission of the organization responded to they may have a very robust crisis management and recovery plan that addresses some elements that may performed, at least initially by internal personnel. These roles can include initial firefighting and hazard containment, triage and first aid, evacuation and containment and even quasi-law enforcement functions. How you as the first responder plugs into potentially ongoing actions being performed by internal personnel depends largely on the scope of the crisis and what functions are automatically transferred upon your arrival.

At the initial stages and shortly after responding to a crisis scene your roles and responsibilities will be dictated by the incident itself and applicable policy guidance. In some cases your role will be that of securing the scene and managing traffic flow in and around the immediate area, in other cases you may be called upon to conduct search and rescue functions. Regardless of your initial and follow-on roles, remember that officer safety is paramount.

As a recommendation, when you conduct patrols through your respective area; identify key facilities and other locations that would pose potentially complicated crisis response challenges. Engage with those locations to at the very least frame what the broad crisis response plan is for each and make note of such in your patrol reference. Share that information will fellow officers and your dispatch; information of this sort is something to be widely shared. Of vital importance is information that relates to primary and secondary evacuation routes and their rally points, designated emergency response entry locations, special protocols related to security that may apply and other unique response considerations.
If upon visiting a facility it is determined that they do not have a crisis/emergency response plan or it has not been coordinated with your jurisdictions emergency services, discuss the possibilities for collaborative planning and exercises that can provide mutual benefit to the facility and emergency response personnel.

Crisis Management Resources

As a first responder there are a variety of roles you may be called upon to perform when responding to various crisis incidents, while you should always rely on departmental policy and guidance, the following is provided to help enhance your awareness and cognizance of crisis response and planning. The links provided are for reference and further reading. Their presence should not be viewed as a personal endorsement of the products or services that may be located at the respective URLs.

Practical Information on Crisis Planning - A GUIDE FOR SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES
http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety...isplanning.pdf

Ready.Gov
http://www.ready.gov/

Emergency Response Plans
http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/crisis/update/plans.htm

Arkansas Safe Schools Initiative- Crisis Response Plans
http://www.arsafeschools.com/FactSheets.htm#10


Key Definitions

Crisis: is any event that is, or expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community or whole society.

Crisis Management: the process by which an organization deals with a major event that threatens to harm the organization, its stakeholders, or the general public.

Crisis Management Plan: the formally established plan that identifies roles, responsibilities and the processes involved when responding to a crisis.

Crisis Response: the act of responding; reply or reaction.

First Responder: refers to those individuals who in the early stages of an emergency event are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment, including emergency response providers.

Mitigation: any sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to life and property from a hazard event.

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About the Author: He is an experienced law enforcement and emergency response professional with over fifteen years of background performing response, mitigation, recovery and related planning. He is a graduate of numerous advanced training programs related to emergency management and holds the designation of Intermediate Level Emergency Manager (ILEM) through the Alabama Association of Emergency Managers (AAEM). He currently serves as an advisor and liaison for emergency management policy and oversight at the national level.