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How to Run Effective Emergency Drills in the Governmental Sector

How to Run Effective Emergency Drills in the Governmental Sector

Government agencies set the example for the rest of the country on how to respond to emergencies.

If you’re working in the public sector, the agencies around you are creating the rules and regulations for emergencies. You have more guidance, but you also might have more regulations than a private-sector organization. In addition, government directives can take a long time to be adopted at scale.

In an emergency situation, you often only have one chance to get your response right. Here are the top tips on running effective emergency drills in the government sector.

Think Long-Term.

If you’re part of a federal agency, you may have buildings and locations all around the country. Local agencies also interface with a variety of communities and ecosystems. To create an effective emergency response plan, understand which types of disasters might come your way. For example, could you be subject to any of the following:

  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornadoes
  • Chemical explosions
  • Terrorist actions
  • Toxic spills
  • Civil disruptions
  • Fires
  • Earthquakes
  • Workplace violence
  • Health pandemics
  • Chemical poisoning

Operational rollouts can be extremely time-consuming. A team of executives can’t just implement their desired emergency response plans. Instead, annual budget allocation and contingency designations must go through several checkpoints before they can be adopted. Your agency’s management may need to meet with other agencies and follow several regulatory mandates before drills can be physically run and new plans can be put in place.

As a result, you’ll need to think long-term about any changes in emergency management technology or procedures. Try to be extensive with your emergency management planning and documentation. While you wait for the go-ahead to adopt new technologies, you can drill with your team through tabletop exercises and educational sessions.

After Your People, Your Data Security Is Paramount.

Your people are your most valuable asset. After you get them out of harm’s way, your data is the next most important thing. As a government agency, you’re not involved in profit-making ventures or manufacturing and production. Instead, your data is the most valuable element of your organization.

Make plans and run drills specifically around the protection of data. If there were a cyber breach, what does your data backup look like? If your physical technology were to be destroyed, how would you maintain agency continuity, and how long would it take before you were up and running?

Where homeland security is involved, confidential processes and projects may be involved. You want to find a way to avoid duplication of efforts and resources, without giving away classified information. How can you bring together the information from various agencies and operators within a state in the most efficient way possible during an emergency? Answering these questions will take insight from individuals with the highest levels of access to your agency’s information.

Follow OSHA Requirements on Personnel Training.

OSHA requires agencies to train personnel on proper emergency response procedures. Your education program will be determined by factors like the size and distribution of your workforce, and which materials you have onsite. There are also technical factors to consider, like whether you’ve used a networked communications platform to address things like personnel location and two-way notifications.

In general, your educational program isn’t complete until you address:

  • Key personnel roles and responsibilities
  • Existing threats and hazards
  • Protective actions
  • Notification and communication processes
  • Emergency family location procedures
  • Evacuation
  • Sheltering
  • Personnel accountability
  • Emergency equipment
  • Shutdown procedures

Recognize The Dynamic Partnership Between Public And Private Entities.

Several private-sector organizations are responsible for operating and maintaining parts of emergency response. You’ve heard of OSHA and FEMA, but you may not be as aware of how the Red Cross or various private-sector SaaS companies are an official part of emergency response. For example, AtHoc’s networked crisis communications system is used by 70% of the federal government and is FedRAMP-certified.

When running drills, understand where private-sector components play a part. For example, where mass care is involved, several government agencies assign integral operations to the Red Cross. To get you started, have an answer to the following questions:

  • Are contractors required for any parts of the emergency response?
  • Which external entities need to be communicated with?
  • What channels of communication do we use for reaching out to the community?
  • What key metrics and benchmarks do we rely on?
  • Do we need to interface with local HAZMAT teams, police, EMTs, or the fire department?
  • Are there any integral differences in management or operating style between external parties and your agency that are part of the emergency response process?

As a public sector entity, your approach to disaster response should be thorough and dynamic. Do not wait until disaster strikes to roll out your emergency plans. Running drills on paper and in-person can help you coordinate your efforts and ensure the effectiveness of your response.

Leave no one behind. Learn how AtHoc - the first FedRAMP-authorized crisis communication platform - helps federal government agencies account for 100% of your people and achieve operational resiliency.

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