Emergency Preparedness Is a Necessity

By Schwartz, Jeffrey A. | Corrections Today, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Emergency Preparedness Is a Necessity


Schwartz, Jeffrey A., Corrections Today


NIC has had a long-term commitment to emergency preparedness for correctional institutions. We know that in prisons maintaining a serious level of readiness for crises and emergencies is difficult; it requires budget, time and management attention. It is not easy to stay motivated about events that are infrequent and usually unpredictable. However, a major riot or hostage siege can define a correctional department for decades, and even a disturbance or natural disaster that lasts several hours may produce multiple injuries or deaths and millions in damage. Increasingly, state correctional departments have recognized that comprehensive emergency preparedness is not a choice but a necessity.

In the early 1980s, NIC offered the first emergency preparedness training in the country for top managers. The training dealt with prison situations ranging from natural disasters to riots to labor strife. A few years later, NIC sponsored pilot projects in several states, attempting to develop comprehensive and consistent systems of emergency preparation and response throughout correctional departments. In 1996, NIC published the first self-audit materials on emergency preparedness in prisons, allowing an institution or a department to evaluate its own degree of readiness for large-scale crises and disasters. For the past 10 to 15 years, NIC has also regularly sponsored technical assistance projects on emergency preparedness. NIC is currently completing a critical incident review as a technical assistance project for the Louisiana Department of Corrections, assessing their responses to the two hurricanes.

In August 2005, NIC sponsored a half-day workshop on emergency preparedness for correctional facilities at ACA's summer conference in Baltimore. The workshop was heavily interactive and well attended by a broad cross-section of managers and administrators from across the country. The reactions to this workshop were very positive, again reinforcing the importance of this topic for correctional agencies.

New Developments

NIC announces three new developments in this area. In August 2005, NIC published A Guide to Preparing for and Managing Prison Emergencies. The guide was developed through a cooperative agreement with LETRA Inc., of Campbell, Calif. The first part of the monograph consists of updated and expanded self-audit materials. There is a freestanding checklist on general emergency preparedness in prisons, a second checklist focusing on fire and natural disasters, and a third self-audit checklist on counter-terrorism measures in prisons. A second section of the monographcontains resource materials, chapters on leadership during crisis, management

of emergency teams, prevention of prison emergencies, etc. The last section includes seven case studies of actual high-profile emergencies in correctional institutions, with a "lessons learned" section for each situation. …

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