Now, How to Get Prepared for the Worst!
This is the third article in a series to increase awareness in safety and security planning. Previously, I explained the aspects of safety and security including the events, planning process and areas that must be considered. The remaining question is: “How do you build a plan?”
Planning and preparation are the keys to surviving an emergency, attack or natural disaster. This article addresses the planning steps that must be considered. I will outline the process used by the University of Texas at Austin (UT) to address emergency planning.
Authority: There must be a common understanding within the organization that the planning agency has the authority and responsibility to direct planning and actions in the event of an emergency. Who is in charge and what is the role of subordinate organizations?
Concept of Operations: Any plan must start with a concept of operations that can be transmitted to all members or the organization. The concept is designed to provide framework and guidance for a coordinated response to any and all emergencies. The concept supplements existing procedures with a temporary crisis management structure. The concept should link the planning to the National Incident Management System.
Emergency Situations: The severity of an incident as determined by the threat to the safety of the campus community and university property will dictate the level of response. At UT, we recognize three levels of emergencies. This permits responders and officials to have a common understanding of the nature of an emergency and the required response. “Level 1” is for minor situations that are limited in scope. “Level 2” is a major emergency situation that is larger in scope and more severe in terms of actual or potential effects; this cannot be handled by university resources. “Level 3” is a disaster involving significant casualties and/or widespread property damage that is beyond the capability of the university and immediate local authorities.
Planning Assumptions: All emergency planning requires a commonly accepted set of assumed operational conditions that provide a foundation for establishing protocols and procedures. These assumptions may include:
Critical lifeline utilities may be interrupted.
Regional and local services may not be available.
Major roads, overpasses, bridges and local streets may be damaged.
Buildings and structures, including homes, may be damaged.
Damage may cause injuries and displacement of people.
Normal suppliers may not be able to deliver materials.
Contact with families and households of the organization may be interrupted.
People may become stranded, and conditions may be unsafe to travel
Emergency conditions will likely affect the surrounding community.
The organization may not receive outside assistance in the short term.
Planning Objectives: All planning should address organizational, communications and information management, decision making, response and recovery objectives.
Phases of Emergency Management: The UT Emergency Management Plan addresses emergency preparedness activities that take place during our four phases of emergency management.
1. Mitigation: Mitigation is intended to eliminate hazards, reduce the probability of hazards causing an emergency situation, or lessen the consequences of unavoidable hazards. Mitigation should be a pre-disaster activity.
2. Preparedness: Preparedness activities will be conducted to develop the response capabilities needed in the event of an emergency. Preparedness is everyone’s responsibility.
3. Response: Response operations are intended to resolve a situation while minimizing casualties and property damage. Response activities include warnings, emergency medical services, firefighting, law enforcement operations, evacuation, shelter and mass care, EPI and search and rescue.
4. Recovery: The recovery process includes assistance to individuals, businesses, and government and other public institutions.
State of readiness conditions: Many emergencies involve a recognizable build-up period during which actions can be taken to achieve a gradually increasing state of readiness. These states are called readiness conditions and consist of a four-tier system. Specific actions are detailed in departmental or agency standard operating procedures.
Condition 1—Normal Conditions
Condition 2—Increased Readiness
Condition 3—High Readiness
Condition 4—Maximum Readiness
Responsibilities: The plan must identify the functional groups, management structure, key responsibilities, emergency assignments and general procedures to follow during emergency conditions. The plan is activated whenever emergency conditions exist in which normal operations cannot be performed and immediate action is required. The plan must specify the activation process and leadership responsibilities.
Types of Events and Situations and Assumptions: These complex planning matrices are available on PT’s Web site –
Command and Control: In any emergency, there must be an established and recognized line of command, control and responsibility. This line of command and control must define the responsibility for establishing objectives and policies for the successful management of any emergency and recovery operations.
Emergency Facilities: The University of Texas at Austin has developed an emergency command center (ECC) and several emergency operations centers to manage emergency situations. These facilities serve as the command center for the university’s response and recovery operations.
Communications: Rapid and timely communication of information to the university community and to the general public during emergency situations is crucial. Additionally, accurate and timely communication of information to incident response personnel is required for adequate response to emergency incidents. The communications means used by the university include:
1. Emergency Preparedness Web Page: An up-to-date information web page that indicates the current status of the university is always available at http://www.utexas.edu/emergency/
2. Outdoor Warning System: UT has outdoor sirens / speakers that are placed in several locations on the campus. This system alerts students, faculty, staff and visitors who are outside on the campus. The warning directs all outside to seek cover inside immediately.
3. Integrated Dispatch: Our advanced communication system allows designated personnel to be notified of an emergency through multiple electronic means instantaneously.
4. Pagers: The university is a participant in the Austin Warning and Communication System. This system of pagers is a crucial part of the emergency communications strategy for the university.
5. RDMT RADIO SYSTEM: UT is a member of the regional 911 Radio, Dispatch, Mobile Data, Transportation Coalition. The university trunk radio system allows for digital and analog radio communications between public safety and public service personnel.
6. UNIVERSITY E-MAIL: Mass e-mails will be used as a way to notify the university community of emergency threats or actual situations and to keep them updated on the situation.
Based on the nature and extent of the emergency event/situation, a process will be put in place for the dissemination of communications to specialty teams and sub-specialty teams. To aid in the initial dispatch of critical communications, a matrix has been developed that identifies critical communications-receiving individuals, offices and departments. In this matrix, these key personnel and offices are cross-referenced with specific types of incidents. A letter of priority notification is then assigned to each position, office or department. The priority classifications are as follows: I (requires initial notification); “A” (requires immediate notification); “B” (requires immediate notification at the direction of the Vice President for Employee and Campus Services); and “C” (requires notification at the direction of the emergency manager). Those positions, offices and departments that have self-identified as needing immediate notification (“A”) must have an operational response plan for emergency incidents.
This is how the University of Texas at Austin is attacking the planning issue. The key step now is to actualize all plans with responders or those that have responsibilities to act or react. There is nothing new or earth-shaking in this process. If we can help anyone, please send us an e-mail.
Use whatever helps you prepare for that day we all hope will never come. But as we said in my last line of business, “hope” is not an operational concept. Plan for the future!