There are many, very good established models available to an Emergency Manager to follow and adapt. It is important to ensure that any model developed or adopted meets any legislation or standards that apply to your community. In assisting with the planning process, I have developed a model or framework that systematically and logically allows the emergency planner to progress through all of the comprehensive emergency management components. The model portrays the planning process in a step-by-step hierarchical process that establishes one component before moving on to the next component. The model accommodates the 2 primary supporting planning initiatives that must exist for a completed plan. The first and most common planning initiative is the Response Plan, the other, and equally important, especially in front of the realities of an Influenza Pandemic, is the Business Continuity Plan (BCP).
Together, the community will be as prepared as it possibly can be. By embracing comprehensive planning, the community will be in a position to respond and sustain itself through extreme events and at the same time be resilient and capable of recovery and restoration of services post event.
To illustrate this I draw a comparison to a ladder. A ladder has critical components, none of which a user can do without to reach the top. This is also very true about emergency plans. A ladder has 2 vertical support legs and a series of connecting horizontal rungs. All of these components are required to successfully climb the ladder safely. Any part missing constitutes a faulty ladder and cannot adequately fulfill its purpose, getting you safely to the top.
The Emergency Management Ladder follows the same philosophy. It has 2 vertical support structures, one called Emergency Response Planning and the other Business Continuity Planning. The rungs that are connected to each leg represent the work that must take place so that the 2 plans are complete, relevant and collaborative. These 2 planning initiatives should be worked on simultaneously and have horizontal integration at various levels. What this means is that there are inherent dependencies between these 2 plans and co-development not only makes good sense, but also is efficient and essential.
EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLANNING
Emergency Response Planning has traditionally been left to the First Responder community, (Police, Fire and Ambulance). As the world becomes more complicated with terrorism and the threat of Pandemic outbreaks, more attention is being focused on response planning. Traditionally, response planning consists of establishing in advance, the authority, framework, trigger points and the roles and responsibilities of a community that must respond to an event. Having this in place, in advance, assures that infrastructure, funding, training and resources are in place and managed in an appropriate balance with the goals and deliverables of the plan.
Emergency planning must be comprehensive and based on science, research and best practices. The established framework provides a structure to achieve a successful planning process while keeping it true to the basic tenets mentioned above. Response plans should follow the all Hazards approach and incorporate the 4 pillars of Comprehensive Emergency Management: (Prevention/Mitigation; Preparedness; Response & Recovery). The response plan will outline the manner in which a community will respond when called upon to do so. It is a living, dynamic plan that will change as the community and its mandate changes in concert with political, cultural and environmental changes as well as changing threats and new hazards.
BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANNING (BCP)
“BCP is defined as: the identification and protection of critical business processes and resources required to maintain an acceptable level of business, protecting those resources and preparing procedures to ensure the survival of the organization in times of business disruption.”(Systems Management Methodology – Disaster Contingency planning, 1992, Price Waterhouse)
Business Continuity/Resumption Plans ensures that essential business services, functionalities, programs and operations are resilient and sustainable during and post business interruptions. Business continuity planning prepares a community for business interruptions and can vary in size and complexity. BCPs generally include the following elements: Corporate Sponsorship; Business Impact Assessment (BIA); an Event Response Plan; a Recovery Plan and a full Restoration Plan. Within these elements an understanding of how the business operates under normal circumstances is essential allowing for a streamlining of the process when some operational areas are unable to function normally. This is why having the appropriate human resources on the BCP team is critical. Team members with the intimate knowledge of their operational areas are able to develop an inventory of essential business functions and resources; fundamental operating procedures; operational shortcuts – do’s and don’ts and the components required for an alternate site.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
It is only when you combine the efforts and deliverables of both of these planning initiatives that you have a complete, encompassing and comprehensive plan for your community. Either plan cannot successfully function, serve your community’s needs, sustain the community through or recover from an extreme event alone; they need each other to be fully supportive. They are dependant on each other for support and actions in order to totally manage the event at hand. The response plan will fail if there has not been advance consideration of how it would be supported when the responding functions of the community have been affected by the event and their effectiveness is limited or disabled. Similarly, if the community has no plans to mange their environment during and post disaster, the response effort will be short lived and fall short of any expectations.
A community’s BCP should be 2 fold; i) to support all response initiatives that have been identified as critical and ii) the community needs to be successful in managing it’s core competencies during the disaster and have a strategic plan to recover and restore business function to normal over a reasonable time frame efficiently. The big question that is asked now is, ‘what plan or plans does the community need to have?’ The answer to this question can only be answered within the community.
The question of Ownership is a question that needs to be asked and answered at the very beginning when the community’s Strategic Model is developed. For those communities that are charged with a mandate for response, a comprehensive and robust response plan is a necessity to fulfill the obligations of the mandate. In conjunction with and at a minimum, an appropriate BCP must be crafted to support the response initiative to guarantee all necessary supports to the response are available and are sustainable throughout the response phase. The comprehensiveness of the community’s BCP does not have to stop at this point and it is encouraged that the fundamental and critical business functions of the community require sustainability throughout the disaster as well. This complete BCP allows for a full recovery over reasonable time for the community
For communities that have a minor response role, less of an emergency response plan is required. Every community will have some requirement for internal responses. At a minimum, fire, bomb threat and evacuation plans are forms of internal response plans and need to be formalized from within. Thought should be given to not only these Primary Response Triggers but to the Secondary and Tertiary Response Triggers as well. Events that happen outside of the community, which the community has little or no control over, can have an impact on that community. These triggers I refer to as secondary and tertiary triggers depending on the nature of the association. Some of these events require a response, which necessitates incorporation into a written plan. The secondary and tertiary triggers become issues to be managed within the BCP process so that the community’s impact is minimized and managed appropriately. If the community is dependent upon other communities to provide goods and services that are critical to the community’s functionality, these relationships and vulnerabilities must be accounted for within the BCP. If services are contracted out, BCP guarantees should be procured so that a clear understanding of how the relationships will function when there is a disruption of services or non-delivery of goods.