By Grant Adkins
Faculty Member, Emergency and Disaster Management at American Military University
Murphy’s Law states, “If anything can go wrong, it will” (Avidor, 2013). The history of emergency and disaster management is replete with mistakes made from complacency, lack of preparation and little or no communication with available resources.
In downtown Calgary, Alberta Canada last year an explosion not only knocked out internet and power but cut communication utilities to include the city’s 911 emergency lines and 311 information lines (Kheterpal, 2012). Chaos and confusion hindered emergency response communications and operations at all levels. It is a good example of the unexpected occurring and from the lack of preparation hindering the effectiveness of law enforcement and first responders.
Threats from unknown and unforeseen natural and man-made incidents like earthquakes and lone shooter incidents stress the need for coordination with law enforcement officers (LEOs) at all levels. In many situations, the first and last line of defense lies with the responding LEOs. Coordination with law enforcement for disaster preparedness and response is a critical element in any tactical response plan. Integrating law enforcement command, control, and coordination (C3) requires clear structure, continual evaluation and training, and an independent response uninhibited by bureaucracy. It is the boots on the ground emergency managers making the tough choices and providing the necessary communication to save life and property at a moment’s notice.
Over the last decade the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has restructured its planning and mitigation for disaster incidents requiring federal response. Some of these changes provide for the assignment of a Senior Federal Law Enforcement Officer (SFLEO) that would coordinate law enforcement efforts (FEMA, 2008). Identifying a clear command structure can ease confusion when Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) are affected by disaster. It is a way to mitigate Murphy’s Law, making maximum use of response efforts.
Security training and exercises are critical elements that aid stakeholders and first responders during vulnerability assessments. County, state, and federal resources are stressed by the actual cost of conducting the training. The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA have been providing funded training through Texas A&M Engineering Extension Services (TEEX). These courses are available at no cost online as well as in person at scheduled conferences.
Times may change but natural and man-made hazards will continue to abound in the intricate and demanding world we live in. Emergency management offices can provide the necessary foundation to build a contemporary and planned emergency response framework that is simple in design and independent in function. Clear communication in response planning and training with law enforcement agencies will help first responders to effectively protect life and property.
About the Author: Grant Adkins is a part-time adjunct faculty member with AMU. He has served over 20 years in the U.S. Military as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician. He resides in Southern California working full-time for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as an Explosives Specialist.
Avidor, R. (2013). All the Laws of Murphy in One Place. Retrieved from Murphy’s Law Site: http://www.murphys-laws.com/murphy/murphy-laws.html
FEMA. (2008). What’s New in the National Response Framework. Retrieved from FEMA: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/whatsnew.pdf
Kheterpal, G. (2012). Shaw’s Communication Nightmare: Disaster Management Gone Wrong. Retrieved from The Telecom Blog: http://www.thetelecomblog.com/2012/07/16/shaws-communication-nightmare-disaster-management-gone-wrong/
TEEX. (2013). National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center. Retrieved from Texas A&M Engineering and Extension Service: http://www.teex.com/nerrtc/