Sequential planning programs, where corporate-level policies and protocols are established first, followed by development of action team procedures, take longer but allow the organization to focus on one level of planning at a time.
This process would follow this order:
1. Build program foundation
2. Corporate-level planning and policy approval
3. Corporate emergency preparedness plan
4. Action team planning
5. Site-specific emergency action plan
Parallel planning programs, where all three tiers of planning are working simultaneously, may produce a plan faster, but require more inter-team coordination. You accomplish the same steps as listed above, but they can be worked on by different groups simultaneously, and then fed through the groups for approval.
Regardless of the process chosen, meeting frequency must be established. How often and how long? The Crisis Management Group may only be able to get together monthly and for no more than 90 minutes. Generally, these meetings have the purpose of informing senior management of program progress and gaining policy approval. Information presented must be concise, structured, clearly articulate decisions and approvals required.
The Emergency Preparedness Planning and Emergency Action Teams, by necessity, must meet more frequently, for a few hours or so. Assuming there will be information gathering/preparation required by team members outside of the meetings, these teams might meet every other week.
The importance of "program momentum" cannot be overstated. Meetings must be continued, even if principal team members cannot attend. It is desirable to identify alternate team members, who participate when principles are unavailable. Programs which lose their momentum quickly lose interest.
The program foundation in place, planning can begin in earnest. Planning meetings, rehearsals and validation exercises are the core elements of the actual planning process. Periodic sessions with the Crisis Management Group are scheduled throughout the process. An example schedule of the process might look like this:
1. Build program foundation
2. Program overview meeting with groups and teams
3. Planning workshop #1
4. Planning workshop #2
5. Crisis management group update
6. Exercise #1 (tabletop)
7. Publish draft plan
8. Planning workshop #3
9. Exercise #2 (walk-through rehearsal)
10. Crisis management group update
11. Publish final plan
12. Information session with clients
It is important that each planning workshop, update and exercise have specific goals to be accomplished. For example, planning workshop #1 goals might be risk/hazard assessment and Department of Homeland Security Threat Advisory System and corresponding corporate actions. Workshop #2 might address communications protocols, communications strategies, and interaction with external agencies. If goals are not accomplished during a particular meeting, they are carried over to the next session. [The first article in this series, "Emergency Preparedness Planning Guidelines" lists those preparedness plan topics which should be covered in the process].
At the end of the initial planning process, it is wise to conduct an information seminar with key stakeholders and clients that have not been involved in the planning process. This session outlines key elements of the preparedness plan and opens avenues for coordination of client plans with the corporation's plan. As the process continues beyond the initial planning program, opportunities for clients to participate in the process may be available.
Sustaining Your Preparedness