Continued form the VA Disaster Drill inspired blog………
Well Part III will be short and sweet so to speak. The four lessons learned at the VA Drill are pretty straight forward I think. Yet we in EmComms and Emergency Managers in all services can’t seem to learn them.
It is assumed that when the “balloon goes up” or the “alarm sounds” that communications will be there and it will work. Why? Because it has always worked and because it is always there: a circular argument. In other words communications is taken for granted.
And because it is taken for granted, in a lot of Emergency Services groups have designated Radio Communications to the glass case with “break in case of emergency”, only to be used when their cell phone quits or internet connection is lost. So there is no use of the asset and no one to exploit the asset until “everything else fails” and you become the comms expert because “you’re the guy with the working radio”.
You can see this with most EmComms groups: They “train” for a mission that either doesn’t exist or for a served agency who has them in the glass box and doesn’t know their true value because they don’t exercise them in a realistic method.
You see this with most disaster plans: When a agency or entity sees that their might be a need for an alternate emergency communication method they don’t consider everything needed to fully utilize that asset. Case in point, the Region Hospital “doomsday radio box”; containing an HF, VHF and two VHF hand held radios, lots of great toys in a nice waterproof box. Yet there is no power supply, woops forgot that, and in most cases, no one who knows how to use the radios!
You can see this in our preparation for emergencies when we do drill by how we drill. We don’t play it for real. We ignore lessons learned from the past. We can only work from the cookie cutter approach of one shape for all disasters. So when a problem occurs we don’t know how to react, correct or compensate for the problem when it is for real.
Am I being down on all EmComms? No. I am just relating what I have seen as a result of the assumption that EmComms will work because it has been taken for granted, assumed it will work because it is part of the plan, that someone will be able to pull a rabbit from a hat and make magic on the day when it is needed and that when those problems come up we will have trained for those problems and be able to concur them.
I am saying that the SET exercise on this Saturday is realistic; it is patterned after a real event. It includes some of the EOTWAWKI things that happened in Kentucky last year. And yet as I listen to ARES folks, Ham Operators and Emergency Services people most of who still talk about pre deploying assets or where to deploy or how to deploy I am saying that there are still a bunch of people who don’t get it.
Learn from past experiences, make your training real, work with your served agency in real time, understand how to exploit your asset and most important COMMUNICATE with those whom you will be working with during the real thing.
PLEASE train like you will play. It will make all the difference in winning on game day vs. having showed up and becoming a spontaneous volunteer.