Collaboration in Emergency Preparedness and Management

By Williams, Robert W. | Corrections Today, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Collaboration in Emergency Preparedness and Management


Williams, Robert W., Corrections Today


Correctional facilities and departments around the nation face similar challenges in preparing for emergencies. The ongoing recession has forced agencies to cut budgets and reduce personnel. The need to reduce expenditures can prevent the commitment of resources to emergency planning, training and exercises.

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Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD 5) established the National Incident Management System (NIMS) as the standard for emergency preparedness, response and recovery activities. Among the provisions of HSPD 5 is the requirement that all state and local agencies adopt NIMS in order to be eligible for disaster assistance grants.

However, state and local agencies around the nation have struggled to comply with the provisions of HSPD 5. Many agencies quickly rewrote their emergency plans; required their employees to complete online NIMS training; and reported to the federal government that their departments were in compliance. Aside from these efforts, NIMS compliance has stalled in many jurisdictions. After these initial efforts, many agencies' priorities were redirected to other concerns, including shrinking budgets. Emergency training is most effective when frequent exercises allow employees to use their new skills. Exercises can also reveal weaknesses in emergency plans. When planning assumptions are proved wrong, agencies can modify their emergency plans, correcting deficiencies. Neglecting to exercise emergency plans may save money in the short term, but could lead to vastly higher expenditures in the long term, should agencies not adequately respond to a real-world event.

Jails and prisons are not alone in the need to do more with less. Emergency management, law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services staff and public health departments face the same fiscal challenges as corrections. In the event that a correctional facility is affected by a natural or manmade disaster, that facility will depend on response from surrounding local agencies. The effectiveness of that response is dependent on the ability of outside responders to seamlessly work with correctional employees to manage the incident. The integration of correctional employees into the emergency management network can be greatly improved if correctional agencies collaborate with state and local partners in emergency planning, training and exercises.

THE CALiFORNiA ExPERiENCE

It is frequently observed that California has four seasons: earthquake, fire, flood and drought. With the sheer size of the state and the need to manage a variety of natural disasters, California has led the nation in the development of emergency management practices.

The California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) is responsible for the coordination of all emergency planning, preparedness and response activities in the state. Cal EMA was instrumental in the development of the incident Command System (ICS), one of the components of California's Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS). The use of SEMS has been required by law for all California state agencies since 1995.

Operating under the principle that incidents are best managed at the local level, each California county is responsible for emergency management within its jurisdiction. When local resources are insufficient to manage an incident, local agencies can request assistance from county-level emergency operations centers (EOC). EOCs can request resources from regional emergency operations centers, which can make resource requests to the State Operations Center.

After Sept. 11, 2001, when the federal government was seeking an emergency management system, it adopted the provisions of SEMS--with a few modifications--as the National Incident Management System.

CDCR BAckGROUNd

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) manages 143,000 adult inmates in 33 adult institutions throughout the state. …

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Collaboration in Emergency Preparedness and Management
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