Situation Assessment of Various Response Teams
Effective response to incidences obliges an appropriate planning approach that is founded on the disaster evaluation of the situation (Schwartz, 2013). Such a situation obliges a reaction on the planned emergency management process that is applied to the organization. This is aimed at ensuring that perilous assets of an organization are safeguarded from probable hazards (Salmon, Stanton, Jenkins & Walker, 2011). Before the planning and the execution of the response, the assessment of the situation provides the requisite data for examination. This data assists in the evaluation of the usefulness of the existing emergency response tactics used by the organization. This prior situational assessment entails defining the needs and urgencies of the emergency response tactics that are utilized by the organization.
For effective decision-making, planning and control of the whole process, situational management becomes a vital element for application (Comfort, 2004). This management helps in undertaking of all the phases of disaster response through facilitating ease of planning and orchestrating of effective recovery strategies. This memo sets to describe the steps that one would take to conduct the assessment as the starting point. It also discusses the key success factors in the management of large, multi-agency as well as multi-jurisdictional response programs. Further, it discusses numerous ways of determining success of the response. In addition, the memo entails an elucidation of how drills and tests that precisely evaluate the key factors for response can be designed.
Steps That One Would Take To Conduct the Postmortem
The first step, in undertaking the assessment, is defining objectives followed by terms of reference. In this step, the assessor ruminates on the reasons of the assessment practice. The objectives of the assessment activity, the questions that require answers and the entailed activities are defined. The required outcomes from the assessment are specifically determined at this step. The assessor is advised to be realistic as possible when carrying out this activity. As Comfort (2004), gauging the minimum amount of information that is required to attain the necessary output is vital to this step. The assessor then thinks about the end user of the information obtained from the assessment and, in this case; the senior government officials concerned with the disaster event response.
The next step involves choosing the kind of assessment to be applied. There are usually three types of assessment that can be applied namely; rapid, detailed and continual assessments (Salmon, Stanton, Jenkins & Walker, 2011). Rapid assessment is executed during major disruptions such as after the occurrence of an earthquake. Detailed assessment is carried out on various occasions such as after a rapid assessment, on the situation where detailed information is required and when the situation under scrutiny keeps on changing gradually. Continual assessment is done after a detailed assessment has been carried out. According to Schwartz (2013), this kind of assessment involves updating information on the current situation and demanding for the relevant feedback from the involved is vital.
The third step is deciding on whether or not to involve partners in the assessment. At point, an individual decides on whether to undertake the assessment on their own or with partners. Partners may either be internal or external depending on the sensitivity of the assessment being carried out and needs of the assessment (Comfort, 2004). When internal partners are involved, their capacities and roles should be considered. Also, their actual roles in the exercise should be defined precisely. Involving external partners call for a joint assessment that has some benefits. These benefits are; improved coordination and cooperation in the planning, efficient use of resources and reduced assessment fatigue (Jensen, 2011). A joint assessment calls for appropriate divisions of responsibilities as per the agreement of the partners.
In the next step in undertaking a detailed review of the secondary information, every assessor is obliged to undertake a comprehensive review of the available secondary information on the subject of assessment (Comfort, 2004). The information entails the background information, and the information in direct relation to the issues identified in terms of reference (Salmon, Stanton, Jenkins & Walker, 2011). It also involves the information pertaining to the sources and type of latest changes. This information helps in grasping the initial idea of the assessment and the related problems that the assessor might experience.
The other step is the collection of information pertaining to the ongoing responses of the team. At this point, choosing the best method of collecting the actual information pertaining to the performance of the various response teams is vital (Schwartz, 2013). This is so because the correct methodology ensures that only the right information pertaining to the situation is obtained. This endeavor obliges for gathering all the appropriate means in terms of resources, logistics, human and time (Jensen, 2011). In the possession of these resources, all the needed information can be obtained with ease. After compiling, the information pertaining to the assessment activity is presented to the recipients, in this case, the senior government officials. The presentation must be simple and should present a detailed understanding of the activities of various response teams.
The Key Success Factors
There are several basic success factors that are evident in response programs. These factors ensure that emergency operations fulfill the projected aims and objectives of alleviation, reaction and recovery (Comfort, 2004). The main aim of incident response is to ensure a rapid and effective recovery from a security event. In addition, the response gears towards decreasing the impacts inflicted by the threat or disruption to normal functioning of facilities where the incidence has occurred. A systematic approach plan executed in line with the standard measures of corporeal security is applied with an aim of mitigating the probability of reoccurrence of the event.
One of the crucial success factors, towards managing large, multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional response programs, is inter-agency communication (Salmon, Stanton, Jenkins & Walker, 2011). This type of communication is done on the basis of a collective framework. As Jensen (2011) asserts, collaboration among agencies is crucial in guaranteeing effective disaster response. For this reason, the communication among these agencies should be flexible to guarantee a consistent communication framework. This framework ensures that the collaboration between the private sector and the government is at its best for effective management of national calamities.
This happens regardless of the magnitude, geographical location and causation of the disaster. Also, the joint system of information management assists in enhancing public communication by relaying the information pertaining to a disaster accurately and in time to the public (Jensen, 2011). This cross-communication facilitates the meeting of various response team communicators whose aim is to develop, organize and deliver a common message relating to the event. Such meetings facilitate the elimination of delivery of dissimilar information relating to an event by the government and non-governmental agencies. The purpose of inter-agency communication is not only to facilitate effort coordination of various jurisdictions, but also guarantees joint decision-making framework. The framework is founded on the goals and aims, mete tactics and plans, public communications, and the primaries during the occurrence of the event (Schwartz, 2013). This aids in improving the efficiency of readiness for a disaster and the response of various agencies. This way, successful response to an event, the recovery from that event and prevention of its reoccurrence is guaranteed.
The second key success factor is effective reporting procedures of the disaster event. The procedures, of reporting a disaster event, are vital in enhancing the efficacy of response actions to the event (Comfort, 2004). An efficacy reporting procedure is grounded on the fundamental facets of effective communications that guarantee to extend to the largest audience possible. The reporting of the disaster event must be fast enough so as to mitigate any probable losses that may emanate from the event (Kellams, 2007). For this reason, utilization of effective reporting networks and procedures which manifest minimum constraints. These procedures are obliged to conform to the evacuation policies usually applied when all physical security bounds have been entirely overwhelmed (Kellams, 2007). These policies advocates for adequate communication of the incident, suppression of the destruction imposed by the event and mitigation of eminent risks through safeguard crucial assets.
The third key success factor is effective management of resources. Effective response programs oblige for effective management of resources. This exercise primarily starts with the identification of the resources that are available at all levels of jurisdiction (Schwartz, 2013). The identification is followed by classifying, transmitting, tracking and reception of resources. All these activities call for effective management so as to facilitate timely delivery of these resources and prevention of wastage. This way, the preparation, reaction and recovery process of the disaster event is effectively carried out devoid of impediments (Comfort, 2004). Resource management should also entail the various agreements among several agencies who form response teams for effective resource mobilization. This way, the effect brought about by the disaster event is minimized, and the recovery strategies become more effective.
The fourth basic success factor is enhanced public communication. At this point, crucial media relations should be cultivated in ensuring effective communication of the disaster event to the public (Kellams, 2007). During initial stages of reacting to disaster and recovery operations, the involved teams should are obliged to establish communication channels that are capable of reaching the victims with swiftness. In most cases, effective public communication is usually realized through the use of low-price and low-tech networks (Kellams, 2007). This is so because they are believed to be the most effective and are easily accessed by the victims of a disaster event. Some examples of such cheap communication channels that can be used are; megaphones, community radios and the Systems of Public Address.
Measuring the Success of the Response
A given response to a disaster event is said to be successful only if it achieves its primary aims and objectives (Kellams, 2007). In all instances, the primary aim and objective of all response programs are to mitigate the potential damage affiliated with the event on human life and belongings by emphasizing on safety. In determining the success of the response, several variables can be used as discussed below.
The first way, of measuring the success of the response, is through the analysis of the depth of losses incurred after the event and comparison of it to the recovery depth (Kellam, 2006). The extent of loss is measured through the number of sustained fatal injuries, the minor injuries, and the reported total deaths. This is followed then by identification of the magnitude of loss affiliated with the event in terms of property (Comfort, 2004). This way, it is easier to assess the achievement of the response and recovery attempts put in place by the collaborating multi-agency teams. Effective responses to disastrous events are always geared towards minimizing the impacts of the event and to aid in the realization of the best possible recovery plan. Also, these responses aim at preventing such disasters in the future. Assessing the initial possibility of the occurrence of the losses incurred compared to the assessment of the future occurrence of such an event is crucial. This is so because, it becomes easier to determine the success of the response (Rodríguez, Quarantelli & Dynes, 2006).
The second way through which the success of the response is determined is through the evaluation of the level of collaboration between all the stakeholders. In the case of a disaster event, the stakeholders are the public, the government, as well as the response agencies (Comfort, 2004). Successful responses to events depend on the level of collaboration of all the above-mentioned stakeholders. This is so because each of the collaborators must take their part seriously and execute it with utmost articulation for a successful response program. For this reason, there must exist an effective communication channel among the stakeholders (Sadovich, 2007). This ensures that each fulfills their part without intruding into other stakeholder’s jurisdiction.
The stakeholders who have a common picture of the event and who worked tirelessly together throughout the whole response program is an indication of a successful response program (Gardner, 2013). This collaboration can only be guaranteed through effective communication among the stakeholders that in turn ensures effective resource management, sharing of responsibilities and planning of activities. When the above mentioned three activities become effective, the success of the response program is guaranteed. For this reason, establishment of the level of collaboration is an important measure of the success of response programs (Sadovich, 2007).
The third measure of the success of the response is an assessment of the time of distraction of the normalcy of the response. As Gardner (2013) asserts, a successful response to a disaster event usually occurs within the shortest time possible to guarantee minimum distraction of the operation of vital facilities during its execution. The minimum disruption is guaranteed through effective communication, better allocation of tasks among the multi-agency teams and effective allocation of resources. If a response program takes long to be accomplished, it means that there is a problem with one or even more of the three aforementioned perspectives. A prolonged response program may create a lot of disruptions of the critical facilities. To this end, the program may be termed as ineffective and thus unsuccessful. When all aspects of implementation of the program are well coordinated, there is minimum disruption of the crucial infrastructure (Gardner, 2013). When this minimum disruption occurs, the response program is said to be successful. For this reason, the magnitude and duration of the disruption of crucial facilities is one of the metrics for assessing the success of a response program.
Designing Drills and Tests for Evaluating Key Success Factors
The primary use of drills and tests is to evaluate the perilous success factors in the implementation of disaster response program. For this reason, the drills and tests are developed in accordance with the objectives and aims of the response program. First, the evaluation of inter-agency communication during the implementation response program necessitates an examination of the roles and accountabilities of different agencies that are collaborating. For this reason, individual contribution of the agencies must be accounted for during the evaluation of the success of inter-agency collaboration (Gardner, 2013).
Secondly, it is a must that the communication platforms used by different agencies in the process are evaluated. This way, it becomes easier to know different communication platforms that were used by different agencies who were collaborating. The agencies may have used a single platform of communication, or each may have used their independent platform. In most cases for national incidences, the use of a universal platform is encouraged. This is so because it is associated with prominence in managing emergency incidences. To this end, communication platforms are vital ingredients in designing drills and tests. To add on this, the preparedness to disaster is improving because of the use of uniform procedures in response teams reinforced by the application of the universal language. The standardization aspect also emphasizes on the use a set of universal techniques and information systems (Gardner, 2013). The two are developed to boost the operation of entities during the implementation of the response program. In addition, the two aspects serve as a strategic methodology that is used to facilitate effective management of operations during the program. The process of evaluating the efficiency of inter-agency teamwork and communication considerably rest on flexibility of appropriate implementation (Gardner, 2013). This flexibility relies on the progress of a chain of command that the government and non-governmental agencies adopt during the management of the occurrence.
Evaluation of efficient program response is carried out by assessing the base on which the channels of communication used are oriented (Jensen, 2011). These communication channels should be in line with the evacuation policies and techniques. For this reason, communication as a drill and test of evaluating the basic success factor of the response program is designed to conform to the laid down policies and techniques. The reporting of the disaster event should be done based on the real time of occurrence. The accuracy in reporting procedure and of the relayed information pertaining to the event is highly emphasized (Jensen, 2011). In evaluating the success of this factor, we base our information magnitude of the target population of the reporting. For this reason, a critical assessment of communication channels that were utilized during the response and their respective effectiveness in reaching the prospected audience is vital.
In conclusion, this memo describes the steps that one would take to conduct assessing the performance of several response teams during a disaster event. These steps are; definition of objectives followed by terms of references, choosing the type of assessment to be used and deciding on involvement of partners. Other steps are; review of the secondary information, collection of information pertaining to the ongoing response and the presentation of the findings as well as recommendations to the officials. Also, the memo discusses some key success factors in managing large, multi-jurisdictional, as well as multi-agency response programs. These factors are universal framework inter-agency communication, efficient reporting and techniques, public communication and effective management of resources. Further, there is a discussion of various measures success of the response programs. These measures are the extent of loss caused by the disaster, the level of collaboration during the program, and the duration of the disruption of normal operation of crucial infrastructures. Further, the last section discusses on how drills and tests, of evaluating key success factors, can be designed. This process, as discussed above, involves analyzing the roles and responsibilities bestowed on various agencies forming the team, and an evaluation response techniques and policies.
Comfort, L. (2004). Coordination in Rapidly Evolving Disaster Response Systems: The Role of Information. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(3), 295-313. doi:10.1177/0002764204268987
Gardner, S. (2013). Multi-Site Disaster Response and Coordination Best Practices. Rxresponse.org. Retrieved 21 January 2015, from http://www.rxresponse.org/news/blog/multi-site-disaster-response-and-coordination-best-practices
Jensen, J. (2011). The Current NIMS Implementation Behavior of United States Counties. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 8(1). doi:10.2202/1547-7355.1815
Kellams, C. (2007). NIMS and Homeland Security Field Guides. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 4(1). doi:10.2202/1547-7355.1321
Rodriguez, H., Quarantelli, E., & Dynes, R. (2006). Handbook of disaster research. New York: Springer.
Sadovich, J. (2007). Review – Disaster Resilience: An Integrated Approach. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 4(4). doi:10.2202/1547-7355.1397
Salmon, P., Stanton, N., Jenkins, D., & Walker, G. (2011). Coordination during multi-agency emergency response: issues and solutions. Disaster Prevention and Management, 20(2), 140-158. doi:10.1108/09653561111126085
Schwartz, K. (2013). Testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs: The Boston Marathon Bombings.
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