Emergency Communications Planning – Your Emergency Preparedness Achilles Heel?

Do you have family and friends you care for? Or do you have other responsibilities, such as being involved in law enforcement, fire, medical, emergency communications, or any other emergency services? If so, please pay attention. Being able to use most of your key emergency plans in a serious event will depend on what I discuss in this article.

Do you have a disaster preparedness plan? Or have you tested emergency response plans for your communications teams or emergency office? Maybe you’ve tested your plan with your family or friends. Maybe you’ve worked through a county-wide earthquake drill or simulated hurricane or tornado response. Many of us have done some kind of simple testing or exercise. But one very important part of these exercises is usually not covered. Specifically, what happens if you’re at work and your family is in danger? In other words, how well will those plans work if:

You aren’t where your family is or
All your key partners/team members aren’t around because they’re busy trying to determine whether their families are safe?

No Personal Emergency Communications Plan?

Most emergency operations people I meet are well-prepared for a short-term problem, with at least the three days of food and water, a CERT class certificate on the wall, first aid, CPR and other basic certificates in place. But in a recent talk I gave to an audience of emergency management professionals in government and the private sector, I asked how many of them had a written, personal emergency communication plan. The results were eye-opening. Nobody in the audience raised their hands! While it may be different in your family, on your team or in your office, the numbers aren’t surprising to me. Not many people have answered “yes” when I ask whether they have a written plan. Does your disaster preparedness plan contain a specific emergency communications plan? For most people, the answer is “no.”

Let’s think about this problem a little more: most of the people we will need to rely on during or post-disaster don’t have a personal or family emergency communications plan. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to take this one step further. If the people who are already actively engaged in emergency preparedness don’t have a personal emergency communications plan, the vast majority of people in their offices won’t either. The people we all rely on won’t be available. When we test our official plans, we assume our emergency personnel will be available. In too many cases, they simply won’t.

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