Although there may be similarities, every location has its own set of threats and hazards to prepare for, respond to and mitigate. A successful Emergency Management program to include exercise development is dependent on the ability to understand the threats and hazards that could impact a community. Without this understanding, emergency response will only be generally prepared to provide a meaningful response. Although the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) calls for the threats and hazards to be identified and understood, this is not something that is always done or completed as well as it should be. For example, the image below shows a small portion of hazards that should be considered to complete your assessment and the probability of events should drive your exercise program. With this in mind, it takes extensive research through the utilization of a myriad of both open and controlled source documents to build the case that a certain event is or is not historically an issue for your area and or industry. In my current role, a challenge we faced was to determine how heat impacted equipment and historically at what temperature were certain systems being affected. For example, imagine if your operations are dependent on a generator system and that system fails every time it gets so hot. This could have major impact on emergency response if you have not redundancy in place that can deal with adverse heat conditions.
When I took over as the manager for the 911 call centers in Kuwait for the U.S. Army, I realized I had been given a vast amount of historical data. The team up to that point had archived every incident that had occurred over the course of the contract but, no one was looking at the data. The 911 center provided me the ability to understand what types of incidents affected my community to the point of being able to determine when and where the most common incidents occurred. In other words, I had the ability to analyze the types of incidents that affected this community of over 20,000 persons over the course of the last several years and this information could simplify the task of understanding the historical threats and hazards for the area. From this data, it was clear where our challenges most commonly would come from and these events were added to training scenarios to test operation plans.
Staffing levels for the team assigned to determine threats and hazards can impact the outcomes of the assessments; most times, you just don’t have large enough a staff to conduct all the research. 911 call histories can provide a gateway to the trends of a specific geographic area for certain types of hazards. Obviously, using this type of collection of information will limit you to the types of calls your dispatchers receive and dispatch apparatus too. Although a complete assessment should be conducted and all of the available sources should be considered, the call histories for the dispatch center can develop a better understanding of what is happening in your jurisdiction with minimal effort and personnel. I recommend looking for trends based on call types over the last three to five years. Once trends are established, training and exercises can be focused to improve response to the most common hazards for the community you serve.
To begin, you must determine both emergent and non-emergent calls that your area received and then break down and group and review the information. From this information, you should collect and track information such as Incident type, date, time and location. Additionally, you could consider such factors as the day of the week, the tactics used to cause the incident and what type of offender was identified. Consider HAZMAT incidents, how many are occurring and where are they occurring, are they occurring during increased traffic conditions, in a specific section of your jurisdiction or during hours of limited visibility. This information will help you to determine what organizations could benefit for certain scenarios as well as what parts of the community could benefit from preparedness programs targeted at areas of concern. With this in mind, you would be able to determine if you need to plan for and conduct a certain type of training to address emergency response from a whole community approach.
This approach can give you a fast understanding of the area you are operating in without the need to spend weeks researching and evaluating source documentation to develop the EOP Threat and Hazard assessment. That said, I am not suggesting that a review of the 911 call history replace a standard Threat Hazard assessment but, rather either augment it or provide you information to develop your exercise objectives if the assessment is not available or is not thoroughly done. An understanding of the incidents that have the most probability of occurring enables you to tailor your training programs to fit the needs of the community.
Emergency Management Working groups generally are able to compile, analyze and provide threat hazard information to be considered against your Community Profile. From this, training programs are developed, and this cycle is repeated annually. However, consider if the area that you are operating in doesn’t have a robust emergency management program with the staff required to put together the assessments to determine what needs to be prepared for and exercised. When this happens, organizations usually go for what they know. Training for the Active Shooter Event and similar high profile scenarios are focused on. With that in mind it is important to prepare for and exercise such events but, when this happens the most common emergencies can be overlooked.
In summation, the call history of your dispatch center can help shape your exercise program to fit the needs of the communities you serve. It provides an easy to obtain snapshot into the responses in which your first responders routinely respond to. Additionally, the non-criminal call history should also be included for the evaluation of threats and hazards for your area just like crime statistics are evaluated.