5 New Year’s resolutions for the emergency management professional
Around this time each year, about 70 percent of us make our New Year’s resolutions. And if you’re like most people, by Feb. 1 you’ll have forgotten all about them!
Resolutions fail when we don’t see results quickly enough (“Why didn’t I lose 10 pounds this week?”) or the results don’t make us any happier (“It’s much more fun to spend than save!”). That’s why it’s important to pick realistic, appropriate goals that will be useful to you and those around you.
For example, last year I decided to lose some weight. As a father of three young children, I was finding it impossible to keep up with all of their energy, so I reluctantly signed up for a marathon the following December. As a non-runner, I was fearful of even trying, but knowing I had 12 months to prepare and the notion of keeping up with my children, I was committed. I’m happy to report that I achieved my goal and the results were definitely worth the effort. Today, I can almost keep up with my children!
For the healthcare emergency manager, I’ve selected five 2010 resolutions that I think are easily achievable and will improve your work life immensely as well as the work life of those around you. As a bonus, you should expect to see results from all of these very quickly! Enjoy and good luck!
1. Update and organize my command center
Outside of work, I love to cycle (I’m still getting used to running), and the first of the year is my time to inventory my bike and supplies. Did I use all my spare inner tubes last season? Do I need to replace the tires? Should the brakes be tightened? When I’m ready to ride again in the spring, I want my equipment to be ready.
January is a great time to do the same type of inventory exercise in your command center:
• Update supplies and inventory.
• Make sure the supply cache is full.
• Check primary and secondary communications devices.
• Update ICS charts, forms and tools.
Just like I want to be ready for my first flat tire, make sure you have all the supplies and information you need to be ready for your first emergency of 2010.
2. Finish all my AARs and corrective action plans
To maintain Joint Commission accreditation and ensure that your command center is operational, you would have had at least two exercises in 2009 and likely had at least one instance of activating your plan due to the H1N1 pandemic. January is a great time to complete any of those outstanding after-action reports, as well as close out any open items within your corrective action plans.
A few areas to focus on:
• Update needed changes to your EOP, plans, policies and procedures.
• Update contact lists.
• Make sure emergency management regulatory and accreditation requirements are complete.
If you’re finding your AARs are awkward to work with, this might also be a great time to look for a new AAR template. A good place to start is the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program at: https://hseep.dhs.gov.
3. Prepare for my exercises long before they happen
You know you’ll need to run more exercises in 2010, not only for Joint Commission purposes, but really to make sure your staff is trained and ready to respond in an emergency.
Start your planning early:
• Schedule all 2010 exercises and fire drills by end of March.
• Identify all internal and external exercise partners.
• Develop exercise objectives and MSELs (Master Scenario Events Lists) at least three months before event.
• Schedule and conduct necessary exercise-specific policy or plan development and training activities (hazmat, spill response, infant abduction procedures, etc.).
Exercises are time-consuming, but they’re also your most valuable tool for practicing, testing and identifying areas of need before an incident occurs. Spend planning time now and maximize the benefits of your exercises in 2010.
4. Get more staff trained in emergency management
If an emergency impacts your facility or community, the more people who are trained to respond, the better your organization will be able to support your staff, patients, visitors and neighbors.
Work to expand the number and variety of employees who are trained on emergency management:
• Develop brief training opportunities for command center leaders (Command and Section Chiefs), such as mini-tabletop exercises during staff meetings.
• Conduct brief overview programs for senior administrators.
• Update new employee orientation training with contemporary issues surrounding emergency management, such as case studies from recent national and international events.
• Review opportunities for additional training through newsletters, bulletin boards, flip charts, etc.
If you don’t have the time or resources to do all the training yourself, enlist the help of outside agencies. FEMA, for example, offers a variety of online and in-person training courses (http://training.fema.gov/), and organizations like the International Association of Emergency Managers offer local, national and international events (www.iaem.com) for individuals at all levels of emergency management.
5. Plan a vacation … and take it!
Lastly, and most important, I recommend you work early in the year to get far enough ahead in your emergency management program to plan for and take a vacation. This planning should include identifying and training someone in your organization to cover all components of your emergency management program as well as being able to coordinate command center activation while you’re away.
Too often, being an emergency management professional doesn’t lend itself to you being able to leave the office for a week, let alone two weeks for a phoneless and pager-free respite. However, time away to relax and recharge is an effective way to ensure your ongoing health and happiness. Who knows, it might just include a marathon too!