It is impressive to see how emergency preparedness professionals across disciplines constantly juggle numerous tasks and projects while balancing the needs of everyone they serve. In addition to managing their teams, leaders must educate and train personnel for many scenarios and help ensure the team members’ physical and mental well-being.
Managing teams – Effectively managing a team should begin with having a comprehensive strategy and a plan (and contingency plans) in place to manage events as problems emerge and incidents evolve. However, a successful response can only occur when these strategies and plans are followed. Emergency operations centers (EOCs) bring together leaders from across disciplines during an incident. The emergence of COVID-19 has provided real-world experience with testing the viability of virtual EOCs which should prove helpful the next time the physical EOC is inaccessible to the people who staff it.
Preparing teams – Once the plans and strategies are in place, it is time to train team members with valuable hands-on and situational awareness skills to address various potential scenarios. Some trainings may prepare specific agencies, and others may be collaborative efforts across disciplines and jurisdictions – hospital response and tactical medicine are just two examples this month that took a multidiscipline approach. Responding to people with disabilities and identifying signs of human trafficking are two ways teams can build situational awareness to protect and serve the whole community.
Whatever tasks leaders must juggle, do not lose sight of the team that makes all the preparedness, response, and recovery efforts possible.
Taking care of team members – Managing and preparing a team offers a foundation for emergency response. Still, the response effort will fall apart if the team members are unable or unwilling to participate. As such, leaders have a great responsibility to ensure that their teams receive the support they need when they need it. Support could mean creating programs to reduce burnout and incentivize retention or providing mental health services during a disaster. Whatever form it takes, the aim is to protect those who protect others.
The authors in this August edition of the Domestic Preparedness Journal describe the many challenges faced among leaders charged with preparing for the next emergency or disaster. However, the common theme throughout this issue is teamwork. When juggling responsibilities, leaders must not lose sight of the team that makes all the preparedness, response, and recovery efforts possible.