While a football team spends much of the off-season developing its plans, it spends most of its season practicing. While the risks are greater and the possible outcomes more catastrophic, most organizations still spend too little time rehearsing their plans. Plans are often placed on the shelf and thus quickly lose their currency. Developing a program which sustains emergency preparedness is as important as is the initial planning process. How much practice can a company absorb? Well, certainly, a company committed to emergency preparedness can conduct exercises, rehearsals or drills more frequently than every six months or, in some cases annually. Sustaining a preparedness program does not have to involve a full-scale evacuation drill or a comprehensive mass casualty exercise. It can involve simple drills and rehearsals ranging from activating the emergency contact call list on a weekend to having individual departments meeting for lunch at their outside meeting point. Keys to a successful sustainment program are senior management interest, focus, regularity, and ingenuity.
This article has outlined the very basic ingredients of an emergency preparedness planning program. Obviously, development of a program is much more of a daunting task than can be detailed in these few pages. Program preparation, staff participation and resoluteness are key elements of a successful program. Nevertheless, it is a task that must be undertaken if an organization desires to ensure a viable emergency preparedness program.
About the author: Walter F. Ulmer III is president of Remlu, Inc. a veteran-owned small business dedicated to emergency preparedness planning and exercise development and delivery. He holds a bachelors degree in engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a master of science in administration from Central Michigan University. He has over 25 years national and international planning and exercise development experience, ranging from the planning of military operations to developing preparedness plans for private corporations. He has developed emergency plans for military facilities, local jurisdictions, health departments, colleges and universities, high-rise buildings, and security service companies. He is currently an adjunct instructor for the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center and in this capacity presents emergency preparedness planning seminars to senior emergency management officials and elected officials throughout the United States. He is also a member of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) New York City Hi-Rise Emergency Action Planning Task Force.