Staffing an EOC
What You Need to Know
by Stephen N. Foley
It is interesting to note, as I travel across the United States, how Emergency Management takes a backseat in the political arena until some political entity “Monday Morning Quarterbacks" the local Emergency Manager when a disaster/incident occurs.
While many give lip service to the need for an Emergency Operations Center—and for an “Emergency Operations Plan” (and the need to exercise it annually)—where is the backing to fully implement that plan when the need arises?
Many local communities, like my own, have town department heads who wear two hats. On a day-to-day basis, they function as the department head (Fire Chief, Police Chief, Public Works Manager, Town Manager, etc.). When the disaster/incident occurs, there is an expectation that they will immediately flip the “switch”, both literally and figuratively, and the EOC will jump to life! Really!!!
What happens, in reality, is that these personnel are attempting to fill two roles: one of an operational commander in the field; and, secondly, a coordination and communication role in the EOC. We know that you can’t serve two masters well! Communication becomes muddled, objectives become skewed, operational planning may fail, and decisions made (due to lack of sleep) my cause injuries and loss of life to civilians and emergency responders, alike.
In many local, county, and state EOCs, they have activated Incident Management Teams (IMTs) to supplement the EOC staff. What do these IMTs bring to the table?
• Multi-Discipline Staffing
• Knowledge and implementation of ICS
• Depth in staffing critical EOC positions, not just ESF-2, -4, -8, -9, etc.
• Local/county/state knowledge, and
• Many other skill sets
I would encourage you to look beyond your “local” borders for EOC staffing assistance. A great example (one of many) is that during the Winter Snow Storms in 2014, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reached out to the Barnstable County IMT to assist with State EOC staffing. I am sure there are other great examples of this same thing across the country.
I would suggest that IMTs promote their capabilities, at all levels of government; and with some training and guidance, they can work well within an EOC—just as in an ICP.