Domestic terrorism and natural disasters aggravated by climate changes have made public safety agencies more aware than ever before that they have to be prepared to operate in the absence of resources we normally don't think about. A critical incident can mean the loss of electrical power, natural gas and water service, disruption of sewage systems, and interruption of telecommunications.
Add to this the possibility of having to contend with flood waters, high-velocity wind, mass casualties, radioactivity, hazardous chemicals or contagious biological hazards, and soon you're not sleeping at night. Here's somethings to keep in mind when dealing with these emergencies and what to consider when purchasing emergency preparedness products:
It may not be a politically popular notion, but your first priority is to see your personnel are protected as much as possible. If the first responders go down with the first wave, there will be no one left to care for the citizenry. The simplest, cheapest equipment may be critical. Nitrile gloves (some people are allergic to latex), filter masks, disposable paper coveralls, goggles and disinfecting/sanitizing liquids and wipes might be the difference between a healthy force and a disabled one.
If food and water supplies are interrupted or compromised, you may need to sustain the troops for a week or more. A large cache of bottled water can be drawn on for normal day-to-day use, and replenished as it is used. This will keep stocks from becoming outdated. Pre-packaged foods like military MREs may not be all that appetizing, but will sustain people indefinitely.
Check with a local reserve or National Guard unit to see if you can add to their stockpile for contingent use. They will draw down and rotate the supply for their own exercises and replace as needed, so everything stays relatively fresh.
Sanitation is a major public health concern. Have you considered what you will do when the toilets won't flush anymore?
The more specialized and sophisticated equipment can't be purchased and warehoused indefinitely. Hazmat suits can deteriorate with time, and some are warranted for only a few (or one) wearings. Radiation monitors and counters require batteries and have to be calibrated periodically. Protective ("gas") masks have seals that decompose or dry out over time, and some have chemical filters with a shelf life. When shopping for these items, make sure you know the timetables for maintenance and replacement, and that consumables will be available.
Questions to ask
How much fuel do you keep on hand for your vehicles? Do you have extra fuel to power electrical generators? Do you have the generators? If the fuel is in underground tanks, can you get it into the vehicles when the power to run the pumps is out? Fuel carts, gas cans and hoses may be in short supply.
Looking after your officers also means looking after their families. An officer called to work may be torn between providing for his family or doing his civic duty—a very tough choice. By setting up pre-designated shelters and evacuation plans for your troops' families, they will be far better prepared to respond to whatever challenges the world brings them.
Tim Dees is a retired police officer and the former editor of two major law enforcement websites who writes and consults on technology applications in criminal justice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.