Texas Emergency Management ONLINE2011 Vol. 58 No. 7

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT BASIC TIPS

Emergency Operation Center

In 2010, the Texas Division of Emergency Management responded or coordinated the response to 5,806 emergency incidents. And, that is just at the state level. Countless incidents and events happen every day at the local level that do not require state assistance. Some require activation of a local Emergency Operation Center, and others the response of a team of local officials and emergency management personnel. If you are new to your role in an emergency operations center, below are a few basic tips you may find helpful to follow before, during and after an incident.

 

Train
As soon as you can, take the time to get trained in NIMs, the National Incident Management System, and the Incident Command System (ICS 100, 200, 700 and 800). Become familiar with the FEMA.gov web site, and FEMA’s online courses. Check into any training that may be offered by the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Plan & Exercise
An emergency plan gathering dust on the shelf is not going to help you. Read your organization’s emergency management operations plan, as well as the plans for the city and county. Ask whether the plans have been updated recently. If you don’t have a plan, a good resource to review is FEMA’s Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101 (Version 2.0). Exercise your plan so you get to know other first responders prior to a disaster.

Communicate
Communications systems are the lifelines for disaster response. All responders must be able to communicate with each other, not just within your department, city or county. That means you need to exercise your communications systems. Don’t wait until disaster strikes to start working out the bugs in your system.

Network
Reach out to your local voluntary agencies ahead of time. Get to know the people in your volunteer groups like the Red Cross, Salvation Army and various faith-based and community organizations. They can provide basic needs for those affected by the disaster and the first responders.

Get to know your Regional Liaison Officer (RLOs) and your Texas Department of Public Safety Disaster District Chair. RLOs are Texas Division of Emergency Management employees who are there to support you throughout the year during the planning and exercise processes. They will be at your side with support and counsel during disasters.

Request Assistance
When disaster strikes, make sure your chief elected official moves quickly to ask for a disaster declaration. Help will be on the way but get a declaration as soon as you can. Then follow up and ask for help. The first 72 hours after an event are the most critical. As soon as you know you will need more resources than you have available to deal with the situation, ask your RLO and the Disaster District Chair in your region to guide you through the process of requesting assistance from the state.

In disaster response, everyone has a job to do. Let those responders that are trained and equipped to do the job, do the job. For example, rescuing people trapped in a building collapse takes a highly skilled, trained professional. Let them do the work. Elected officials should make policy and high level decisions.

Assist The Media
Make the decision in advance on where to locate media. Don’t wait for them to set up wherever they want. Have a back up location for a media center if the first choice location has been destroyed. Plan to have someone available for at least three news conferences per day.

Coordinate Donations
Make sure your officials urge the public to send cash donations to known organizations to help your community. Otherwise, trucks of material goods not requested by the community will arrive that need to be sorted, stored and tracked. This takes time and personnel away from dealing with the disaster.

Take care of yourself and your own family – in advance. You can do your job with peace of mind if you know your family can take care of itself. Have your own family preparedness plan and make sure your family has a place to call and a place to meet if members become separated. Keep an emergency supply kit and make sure your family is prepared to survive for 72 hours without electric power. Take a look at: www.ready.gov for more information.


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