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Client Services Diary: Annapolis Trains Down-Bench

by Carol Apelt on Nov 3, 2016 3:40:44 PM


After what seemed like an eternity to those of us who are fans, football season has finally returned and is in full swing and the star quarterbacks are actively practicing with their starting lineup. But what about the backups? Or the third stringers?Thanks to a preseason injury that benched Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott is now out on the field practicing, too, ensuring he can step up to the plate for each face-off. It’s been paying off in spades, as Dak wins game after game.

Since Prescott was the backup, who’s now backing him up? And are they ready to assume leadership if needed? You can bet the other QBs on Dallas’ roster are out there working harder than ever to guarantee that they’re ready if Prescott, too, is unexpectedly sidelined.

The extensive preparation seen in sports like football also applies to emergency management.

Often, we take it on faith that emergency managers understand the advantages of disaster and emergency preparation exercises, embracing them accordingly. But what if the leaders who frequently participate in exercises are unavailable when an emergency strikes? Are we making sure we train the individuals further down the chain of command so they could handle such events if needed?

If not, we should strongly consider providing those who will fill in with chances to participate and train so that these second and third stringers are ready to respond if the starting lineup cannot.

That’s exactly what the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management did August 25, 2016, when they facilitated a citywide exercise with that purpose in mind.

Built around fictional Hurricane Anna, the exercise involved participants from a variety of city departments and offices – police, fire, public works, the Harbormaster, the Mayor’s office and more – as well as the United States Naval Academy, which has its home in downtown Annapolis.

Most of those in attendance had never been involved in an emergency exercise before, and that was the point: to equip those individuals with the knowledge and tools they’ll need to succeed when managing an emergency event.

Office of Emergency Management Chief Kevin Simmons welcomed them, briefing everyone on the three goals of the morning’s activities:

  • To develop an incident action plan for a Category 3 hurricane,
  • To order resources (personnel, equipment, supplies, etc.) for the response, and
  • To hold an Operations Briefing on the IAP developed.

This chance to provide training to those who do not ordinarily receive it was invaluable and embraced by the city. Those who participated achieved all three of Chief Simmons’ goals, setting the stage for the afternoon’s exercise, which involved the team that historically participates in these exercises. The Emergency Operations Center activations in the afternoon continued the Hurricane Anna “response,” building upon the work completed that morning.

With regard to the newcomers’ performance in their first exercise, Chief Simmons observed, “Our charge as a City is to make sure we are prepared at all levels of government at any time of day or night for severe weather or other emergency, disaster, or crisis. Providing all our team members with Emergency Operations Center experience helps to achieve our readiness goals.”

As this summer showed increased storm activity in the Atlantic, Annapolis’ emphasis on training those at all levels of the emergency management structure has strengthened its ability to respond efficiently and effectively should the city be on the receiving end of yet another storm.

There is a lesson here for all of us: train deep into the bench, not just your starters, to ensure your entire team is prepared to fight effectively for the win.

Has your agency offered multiple layers of potential responders the opportunity to train? How have you incorporated your third-string quarterback - who may have to enter the game at a critical moment - into your exercising scenarios?

Let us know in the comment section below!

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This post was written by Carol Apelt

Carol Apelt is the Vice President of Federal Client Services at Intermedix. Before joining Intermedix, Carol was the Director of Operations at the American Conservative Union; she has also served in key roles at the National Disaster Medical System, the National Commission on Children and Disasters, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University and holds an MA from George Mason University.

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