A More Proactive Emergency Services Enhances Resilience

Or vice versa.

Emergency management is evolving to confront the complex challenges, emerging threats and unexpected hazards of the 21st century. Because of globalization, marginalization, inadequate critical infrastructure, urbanization, and hyper-connected technology — emergency services must adapt and reach beyond their silo of excellences. Complex problems with interconnected issues call for unified solutions.

In the last post (Building Bridges), I considered how resilience provides the opportunity for us to broaden our purpose and value. I offered operational action steps within the emergency management (EM) framework as means for enhancing resilience-although resilience efforts are inclusive to the whole community approach. The suggestions are not based on EM importance or in competition with other resilience efforts. In fact, I just recently discovered the 100RC program and while seeking if resilience was a management practice, ideology or metaphor, became a fan. The proposals are feasible, acceptable, and align with the National Strategy Frameworks and the National Preparedness Goal. “ A secure and resilient Nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.” (NPG) It is the understanding of the greatest risks, their complexities and interconnectedness, the acknowledgement of the unexpected, and the ability to monitor and anticipate future conditions, hazards, and vulnerabilities that should drive us from our silos to build collaborative capabilities. The core capabilities must be a community effort. DHS or any other agency or state cannot achieve the necessary core capabilities for the natural, accidental, purposeful, or technical hazards of the 21st century. Emergency services must become multi-faceted and extend into all five of the mission areas- prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

I suggest the following to promote overarching priorities and unified strategies for emergency services to expand from response (or protection and prevention, at best) to mitigation and recovery:

• Integration of the Resilience Officer position into NIMS,

• Create Resilience Officer position within your own agency,

• Establishing Regional or Local Collaborative Networks,

• Formation of functional Task Forces,

• Providing authority to a National Workgroup for a centralized comprehensive strategy.
  1. Integrate the Resilience Officer (RO) into the Incident Command System (ICS) for a universal application.

Published in 2004 and revised in 2008, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a consistent nationwide approach for domestic incident management. The standardized incident management processes and protocols provide interoperability and compatibility for all of governments and especially applicable to local capabilities is the mandate for the use of the Incident Command System (ICS) and advanced preparedness measures. It institutes an incident management organization and processes to prepare for and work in unity by all entities. In addition, NIMS provides a standardized framework for preparedness, training, certification, and resource management and typing. A standard system for the resilience concept would be critical for enhancing resilience. Because NIMS is scalable, adaptable and modular this would be a simple achievement based on demonstrative value.

Currently the ICS has three officers in the Command Staff; the Public Information Officer, the Safety Officer and the Liaison Officer that support the Incident Commander and others. Incorporating the RO position into the Command Staff would prioritize special emergency management contingencies and technical knowledge management in a clear, defined organizational element directly under the Incident Commander. The provision of authority would enhance interoperability and collaboration by different agencies and stakeholders in special operations and long range or underlying concerns by unifying strategic intent and objectives. The RO position can be designated on an as needed basis, based on the scope or complexity of the emergency incident for a strategic whole of government approach across the entire emergency cycle. The Resilience Officer’s role and responsibilities include the coordination and integration of specialized resources for the readiness, response, and recovery of technical or complex incidents.

The Resilience Officer position in the Command Staff would help ensure that all facets of the five mission areas are being addressed appropriately. For example, recovery should not be an afterthought, but targeted into the desired outcomes. An illustration would be a public health epidemic with extenuating protocols or chemical fire that should not be extinguished due to runoff’s environmental cleanup costs or should be to limit a dangerous plume. A RO position would implement the resilience construct, plans, and programs using specific strategy and tactical tools to assist decision makers at complex incidents. The RO position can enhance the capability for proper prioritization of objectives by informing decision makers and stakeholders of the competing interests, incentives and requirements.

This is the fourth of six posts about my learning of resilience. Next posts will continue through the bullets on implementing a framework in emergency services.