News | Sept. 18, 2018

Emergency plans at home and work

By William Bullock, Sr, installation emergency manager DLA Installation Operations Richmond’s

Since its inception in 2004, National Preparedness Month is observed each September in the United States. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the month-long campaign encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools and communities. Among its many advantages, participation in National Preparedness Month provides us with an opportunity to become familiar with our work/family emergency plans and improve them in order to prepare for and respond to emergencies, including natural and manmade disasters, including potential terrorist attacks.  

When reviewing our emergency plans, we should pay particular attention to the processes that effect family members, fellow employees and ourselves in order to achieve predetermined goals before and during any emergency. Aspects of an effective plan are based on three levels, including tactical, operational and strategic.      

The tactical level is how you react when the emergency happens. An example of this would be how you respond to an active shooter within your building or in a public setting. Typically, we embrace a RUN–HIDE–FIGHT individual action plan, but please understand that no plan can possibly provide 100 percent solutions for every contingency. To quote German Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” While knowing how to react is vitally important, having the mental agility to rapidly adjust with changing circumstances is even more essential to survival.   

The operational level occurs with the exercising of these processes and reevaluating the goals that will guide your actions around known and unknown emergencies to provide the best result for your workplace and home. The annual requirement to exercise and test workplace Occupant Emergency Plans during full-scale exercises is an example of this level of planning.  For family plans, testing established emergency contact lists, walking designated escape routes and executing timed evacuation/reaction drills best demonstrate operational level planning.    

The strategic level is aimed at accomplishing objectives that can significantly increase your chances of surviving an emergency incident.  Strategic decisions determine the allocation of resources and such planning defines objectives on all levels. The OEP addresses this by identifying responsibilities and resources used for established shelter in place, seek shelter and/or lockdown locations. Examples of a strategic family plan would be developing an emergency communications plan, collaborating with neighbors for emergency reaction plans, designating rally locations and maintaining emergency supplies.  

In closing, please remember that preparedness is a shared responsibility that takes effort from the entire community, whether at home or in the workplace.  It is also important to be mindful of the slogan for National Preparedness Month 2018:  Disasters happen. Prepare now. Learn how.”  In order to become more familiar with your organizational OEP in the workplace, please seek out your organizational fire warden/safety monitor. 

To learn more about the establishment and development of a family plan, please visit the Ready.gov website and view the FEMA Life Saving Skills video.