Homeland Security: A needs assessment, Part 2

In Part One we examined the process of conducting a Needs Assessment. In this second part we look at specifics needs – your family, survival, beat and organization.

Start at Home

There is growing concern about the consequences of military deployment on families. This is especially true for the children of military personnel. Similarly, your family copes with anxiety created by your profession. It is likely that each time you leave the house your family feels anxious because of what they have heard in the media, from friends, neighbors and even extended family about police work. Terrorist incidents may heighten your family’s concern for you safety. And, of course, this is a two-way street.

Educating your family will make them feel more comfortable and knowing your family is safe will make you a better first responder. Actions at home begin with recognizing your family knows something about terrorism and have made vague connections on how it may affect you and them. Quite frankly, if you don’t provide them with information someone else will then your family’s imagination will fill in the rest.

Consider a conversation with your eleven year old. He or she tells you about what they learned in school concerning the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Is your child telling you about the tsunami or are they opening the door on your family’s safety? Often times, when people express concerns about disasters they are really thinking about what could happen to them. You must reassure your family, be available and provide them with information they can understand.

Consider using the All-hazards model for family education. By placing terrorism alongside other potentially life-threatening hazards, you can both educate and reassure. Moreover, All-hazards planning is empowerment: It provides action steps which give people a sense of control over events.It is also critically important to take action with your family. Of course, actions speak louder than words, but there is also something inherently powerful in doing and leading by doing.

A starting point could be FEMA’s website. There you can learn what to tell you children, how to shelter-in-place and develop personalized emergency plans, and find a multitude of information on all types of disasters and emergencies.

The critical points are to talk with your family, provide them with a sense of control and help them prepare.

Your Survival

If you become a casualty through injury or contamination your response is more than ineffective, it adds to the problem. As with the response to any tactical problem, the more information you have the better your response.

Returning to the All-hazards model – a terrorist incident generally consists of a combination of the indicators. These indications are crime and mass casualty. A primary difference between a crime scene and a terrorist incident is response.

Simply put, police officers should consider delaying entry into the zone of a terrorist incident until personnel with specialized equipment arrive.With mass casualty events this may be personally difficult. However, the nature of chemical, biological and radiological weapons (or, perhaps secondary devices) makes delayed entry a critical safety factor.

The only way that you can learn about the indicators of a terrorist incident is through training.Indeed, training is the first stop on your journey to terrorist preparedness.One of the over-riding themes of all of the surveys on preparedness is the lack of training for first responders, particularly law enforcement personnel.

Although your agency may not be able to provide you with training, you must seek it out. At a minimum, all law enforcement personnel should take the FEMA Independent Study programs: Basic Incident Command System; Disaster Basics; National Incident Management System; and, Emergency Response to Terrorism. You should seek out information (again, much of which is available at the FEMA and ready.gov) on sheltering-in-place, response to chemical, biological or radiological events and general disaster response.

Your next step at personal survival should be the inclusion of terrorism/disaster related tools and resources in your equipment bag. By using the needs assessment format you can develop a list of items to promote survival and comfort. Equipment needs can be universal blood borne pathogen protection, water, maps, etc. At a minimum you should obtain a copy of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Emergency Response Guide book (ERG2004). This guide is freely available from the DOT and a copy is available for download at their website.

Finally, train! In any emergency you will default to the level of your training. Often times, the best training takes place outside the classroom and in-between radio calls. Take some time and meet with your partners. Conduct table top exercises over coffee. Conduct “what if” drills in the field – practice your response, command post protocols and other skills.

Your Beat

Even if your agency does not undertake an official needs assessment you can conduct one for your beat. Every cop knows that to really dig out the crime on your beat you must first learn what is normal. Knowing your beat’s normal patterns causes you to spot the unusual – the person who doesn’t belong, the car that shouldn’t be there or the business that should be closed. As you work your beat, take special note of strategic locations and potential targets.

Now is the time to look at these locations. Suppose you have a chemical processing plant on your beat. As we examined in the first part of this article, you begin needs assessment by examining the threats: What chemicals are found in the plant? How do the chemicals affect your response? In what ways is the location vulnerable?

Once potential targets have been identified you can begin to fill-in-the-blanks for your response. For instance: Where is the nearest command post location that is typically uphill and upwind of the location?

As you gather information about potential targets on your beat you can share your findings with the other shifts and the people responsible for those locations. Sharing information about response and preparedness with community members and business owners promotes preparedness. As you explore the potential targets on your beat, you will probably find that some locations already have plans and are willing to include you.

Your survival as a first responder depends on your skills, knowledge and equipment. Combing your family planning, personal survival skills and a needs assessment of your personal beat is a powerful way to increasing preparedness and move your agency toward readiness.

Your Organization

Personally taking a proactive stance toward terrorism response and planning for your family, your personal survival and beat moves your entire agency a little bit in the right direction. As your skills and expertise in preparedness increase you may have the opportunity to participate in agency planning. Indeed, expertise often begets opportunity. The more you train and plan personally, the more valuable you become to your agency.

If you find yourself involved in agency-wide planning it is critical to remember the All-hazards model of planning and response is meant to engender cooperation from all government, non-government, business and community members. The idea is to take the strengths and talents of all stakeholders and combine them to make ourselves safer against terrorists. Although law enforcement might take a lead role, this is one instance where the idea of partnerships is critical.

In addition to cooperating with the stakeholders in your jurisdiction, planning must take into consideration your neighbors. Consider how difficult it is to communicate with the street maintenance department in your own jurisdiction. The level of difficulty substantially increases when multiple agencies from multiple jurisdictions work the same problem.

What if the street maintenance department in an adjacent jurisdiction has a piece of heavy equipment you need? How difficult will it be to communicate that need across jurisdictional lines? In the next article we will be looking closely at the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the National Response Plan (NRP). Both are means to foster interagency and inter-jurisdictional cooperation.

Read Part One.

About the author

About the Author

Lt Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA is author of Police Technology (Prentice Hall, July 2004), and co-author of Leadership: Texas Hold ‘em Style (Quill Driver Books, August 2006), From NYPD to LAPD: An Introduction to Policing (Prentice Hall, July 2007), over fifty articles on technology, policing, leadership and terrorism and a dozen educational Web sites like www.police-writers.com. Raymond can be reached at raymond@hitechcj.com or through his blog.

About ITT Night Vision's Sponsorship of this Column

ITT Night Vision is sponsoring this column in order to facilitate information sharing across law enforcement around this important topic and to support law enforcement in their efforts to secure the homeland and better prepare for and respond to acts of terrorism.

Every year, ITT Night Vision partners with various associations in support of the law enforcement community, including the IACP/ITT Community Policing Awards, the Police Officer Safety Technology (POST) program within IACP/SACOP, and the Patrol and Tactical Operations Committee (PTO) also within the IACP. These efforts range from regional sponsorships of K-9 and SWAT team competitions to national and international sponsorships of programs.

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Terrorism Prevention and Response

Sponsored by

logo for print