Emergency planning: know who has jurisdiction in your building

No one wants a serious incident to occur in their business. An active shooter, a bomb threat – a discovered bomb – or even a computer attack are all possibilities that immediately come to mind. Of course, there are so many other incidents that can cause your business or agency to open the emergency operations center.

Emergency Operations Center

We discussed how these centers are set up and who should be a member of your company. Yet, recently, we have discovered an under-regarded area. In other words, have you already identified the jurisdictions of first responders? Who is in charge? Sounds like a simple question, right? Yet, as we examine incidents across the country, we find that police departments, fire stations and federal agencies all have a role to play. How they interact on the scene, during a real incident, largely depends on how familiar they are, having worked together before, and being able to effectively deploy the appropriate resources. I should also add, of course, that licensees know that this applies everywhere in the world. Thus, if our business is located abroadwe also have to consider foreign agencies, their specialized teams and their language skills when planning what we don’t want to happen.

A police officer in the American Northwest lamented that he was contacted for two burglaries on the same street. While deployed, he discovered that one crime had occurred in his district, but the other was outside his jurisdiction. It was opposite the first burglary, and therefore in another police district. Some towns have “municipalities” so small that they may only cover six-by-four blocks. This doesn’t bode well for a robust response. What to do?

Respond to an emergency

Undertake to consciously create a map of your location. Keep it posted and updated. In fact, that means physically displayed on a wall, because if all your electronics break down, you don’t have to reference anything. This happened in a state notorious for tornadoes. When it hit, the current was the first thing to go. Luckily, a prepared map of known roads, trails, and power lines saved the day. In another instance, a bomb threat incident occurred in the southern United States. The organization prepared a good emergency operations center, but forgot to update their police contact details. The bomb squad had moved from one police station to another. An emergency call made to where the squad used to be caused a delay in response. Several calls were necessary and redirected to allow the caller to finally get in touch with the bomb response team. Not good planning for an urgent incident. We all know that seconds count, especially if you need an ambulance.

Identify emergency response requirements

Now you create a mental picture of the requirements. the FBI, with jurisdiction over terrorist incidents in the United States, should be known to you and easily accessible. Several police departments must also be accessible, depending on where your building is located. Lucky for you if you’re on a military base, where the federal police can be contacted. The same goes for fire response teams. However, control of the surrounding area outside the base rests with the local authorities. They need to know how to react to incidents on your base. Remember that. If abroad, the jurisdictions are protected with even more covetousness. Know them in advance. Also know their policies. Is it their policy to recover for evidence, or to destroy on the spot, a bomb discovered at your location? Such issues should be discussed with your counterparts.

You still have a classified environment

Of course, a serious incident does not allow classified information to be abandoned. Reasonable steps should be taken to protect this information. A Soviet ruse during the Cold War was to announce a “fire alarm” that “had been brought to their attention” at the American Embassy in Moscow. Sure enough, the immediate reaction of the Soviet firefighters was swift. Strange however was the way they insisted that all Americans immediately leave the area before they arrived. (Particularly those on the floors where the classifieds took place!) The rest is history. Have measures in place to secure classifieds if you are not going to endanger lives. In fact, your disaster recovery plan requires a process of finding classified components and documents.

Often you need to have an operations center set up for first responders. Do you know where the materials, communication devices, electricity and vehicle support for such a center are located? Or maybe your local support agencies have a mobile command post? Most major cities have them today. Again, remember to rely on the professionals. Do you need the services of a hostage negotiator? Check and see if such a qualified professional is available nearby. The FBI usually has such a negotiator, although major cities have gone to great lengths to develop their own capabilities in this modern technique. Where are the computer scientists that can be called upon to unravel computer attacks? Again, determine who is available in your range of supporting organizations. The same goes for public affairs specialists, who must manage a host of demands, not just from news agencies, but also from distraught family members, local civilians, and the like. Make sure they have a planned operations center where they can communicate privately, or at least securely.

And when in Rome…

Know the local agencies’ standard operating procedures in the event of an incident at your facility. In some European countries, if a hostage is killed, emergency response SWAT teams are dispatched. No further discussion is envisaged. Yet, as with most serious incidents, never say never. Be flexible. Of course, it is much easier to be flexible if the right personnel, the right equipment and the right communication devices are deployed. It takes planning. Take advantage of the moment when “nothing” is happening. Make a plan. Meet your counterparts. To ask questions.

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