Emergencies and disasters have a way of disrupting the norm. In emergency management, disruption is to be expected. However, the events that plague preparedness professionals in 2020 may have an even greater impact on how communities plan for and respond to disasters going forward. For example, the digital world has increased the ability to share data and information on a broad scale. Unfortunately, this is true for both good and bad information, which compromises the overall accuracy and reliability of the critical information that ultimately reaches key stakeholders. Protecting against cyberattacks and ensuring accurate information for data-driven decisions requires additional effort than years past.
In 2020, health and safety crises in local communities have often proven to have national or international consequences. The world has seen how a virus in one community can quickly spread globally, or a shooting in another community can inspire civil rights movements in numerous countries. Worst-case scenario training did not fully prepare local, state, or federal stakeholders for COVID-19. Social justice reforms of the past did not close the racial, gender, and other societal gaps. However, even this pandemic is not the worst-case scenario the world could possibly face, and current calls for social justice are not the last to be heard.
The hospital incident command system (HICS) was designed decades ago to provide a decision-making framework to manage incidents and disasters. Now, more than ever, health care systems are relying on HICS to help meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. This interview with Dr. Brent Kaziny and James Mitchell explores how Texas Children’s Hospital uses HICS to help keep their more than 16,000 employees informed, protected, and safe during this public health crisis.
Despite emergency planners using worst-case scenarios and high-impact, low-frequency events when planning for disasters, experiencing an event in real time exposes gaps in those plans that were not foreseeable (or at least not included in the plan). Furthermore, as time goes on, resources and other needs naturally change. In order to meet today’s disaster support needs, continuous planning, reevaluating, and updating are necessary in order to minimize the impact of any disaster.
Too many elected leaders are not taking the leadership role in developing, reviewing, and implementing their emergency management programs. Many plans have been published by jurisdictions, only to be discarded when it is time to put those plans into action. During disasters, jurisdiction leaders are implementing ad-hoc plans that are not coordinated with their respective jurisdictions’ agencies and, too often, have disastrous results. This is indicative of jurisdiction officials delegating all aspects of planning to their emergency management agencies, without even being briefed on the plan, let alone taking ownership.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many discussions on the topic of acceptable losses. For community decision makers, this is a difficult yet necessary issue to consider before making decisions that may have life-threatening consequences. Spurred by two articles and followed up with a nationwide survey and report, this podcast was presented at the National Homeland Security Association's virtual conference in July and is now available as a rebroadcast of commentary by leading healthcare experts.
The idea of contact tracing is nothing new. It has been practiced for decades to help stop the spread of infectious diseases such as smallpox and HIV. It has been taught to public health professionals for decades. However, with the global explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it has emerged as a key strategy to control the spread of infection.
All disasters are innately different, so no two responses can be identical. If no two responses are identical, then no single plan can be perfect for any specific disaster. And that is okay. Successful disaster management is about implementing the most relevant plan, finding the most reliable information available, and making the best decisions based on that information and accessible resources. This August edition of the DomPrep Journal presents four imperfect yet critical components of disaster response: models, disaster case management, contact tracing, and citizen response.
While much of the news media has been focused on the coronavirus pandemic, violent incidents continue to occur throughout the United States. The shutdown of sporting events, schools, concerts, and other large events has led to an overall decrease in active shooter incidents. In fact, March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting since 2002.
An important aspect of emergency preparedness is a robust exercise program designed with the vital purpose of identifying gaps, updating plans, and strengthening emergency response. Exercises bring together key stakeholders to help build collaborative relationships that pay huge dividends when the real emergency arises. Simply understanding other agency protocols and operational capabilities are valuable lessons learned from most exercises. However, exercises go beyond the checklists, plans, and policies. They offer the opportunity to get to know other people and solidify teams.