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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

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.

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 Beat

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

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.

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