Police webinar highlights MCI response considerations

By Police1 Staff

Police1’s recent virtual tablet webinar, “The first 15 minutes of disaster: creating order from chaos,” generated many questions for our expert panel. While several questions were addressed during the event, we also asked our speakers to answer additional questions and comments from attendees.

Moderator Rob Lawrence, Police Lt Michael Phibbs and Emergency Manager Anna McRay offer their responses below.

Click here to view the webinar on-demand.

1. On the importance of relationship-building

How can public sector agencies get outside agencies more involved in tablet exercises? We reach out and several agencies will not engage. Any suggestions to bridge this gap?

Anna McRay: It’s all about building relationships. Work to find a neutral ground where you can have a chat about goals and needs. Is it a staffing thing? Is it an equipment thing? Is it because one agency doesn’t understand what its roles will be? Break bread, have a cup of coffee and bring something (tangible or not) that underscores the importance of their partnership and engagement. Find common ground. Are they doing an exercise already that you could support with evaluators or facilitators? Is there a way you can share costs or subject matter expertise to build a partnership? Take advantage of those blue-sky days.

Rob Lawrence: We may be in danger of overstating this, but you should not be exchanging business cards at the scene of the event, emergency, or disaster. This is particularly important to the newly promoted officer, whether you are a police lieutenant, fire captain or EMS supervisor, take time to work out who your opposite numbers are, and as Anna notes, go see them – attend roll call or a station breakfast – it will pay dividends.

2. On the importance of exercising, preparation and preplanning

It has been said that 80% of any crisis is the same, so if we plan for the 80% such as the items under discussion, do we only have to worry about the new 20%?

Anna McRay: The biggest thing with exercise, prep and planning is to bring the right people to the table to work on it TOGETHER. There will always be job- and agency-specific training needs but being able to share the process across the board with appropriate stakeholders can help reduce redundancy in the expensive things (like doing exercises and training) and teach others about needs and expectations from agencies across the board.

3. On the importance of law enforcement embracing the Incident Command System (ICS)

I believe that police are behind in IC structure compared to our fire/EMS counterparts. How can LE catch up?

Anna McRay: LE may not be so far behind in the structure part. At its core, police responses are ICS-in-a-box. The officer doing a traffic stop, for example, is the IC/Operations/Planning/Logistics/Finance units all rolled up into one patrol car. All ICS is a process, just follow the process for everything! Use it for specialty unit missions, use it for DWI checkpoints, use it for parades, and use it in collaboration with fire for on-scene responses. ICS is a perishable skill, so stay sharp and use it every day and it’ll become second nature.

4. On the importance of scene command and control

The issue of self-deployment extends beyond an agency’s first responders to state, federal and all other LEO agencies that want to respond. How can we best direct them specifically where to go, and to not respond if not needed, to prevent any blue on blue or confusion with the threat presented?

Anna McRay: I am not sure we will ever squash that desire as we are all in the job because we want to help. But part of that is the realization that sometimes we can be the most helpful by hanging back and being ready to go in for the next operational period or being the designated person to come to the Emergency Operations Center. It all comes back to training and embedding it early so it becomes muscle memory.

5. On the importance of vehicle security

Can you address the issue of whether to lock police cars responding to an MCI? I understand leaving the keys in the car so a vehicle can be moved to allow the ingress and egress of emergency vehicles, but I am concerned that suspects allow access to additional weapons and now the police radio. One solution would be to equip cars with ignition kills and/or keyed the same so that everyone has keys to all the cars.

Anna McRay: Ignition kills are a really good idea. Again, training, training, training. Teach why it’s important to pull off to the side. Learn how big other resources are to see how everyone can squeeze in (or not). Make sure you have the number for a partner from a tow truck entity or your locality’s vehicle management if you are so blessed to have a tow truck in your fleet to respond along as a logistical support asset to hook and move if needed. (It’s a good planning effort anyway, because you can include those private sector partners in your planning efforts, and you can have resources on-site to help with emergency repair needs like flat tires and the like.)

Mike Phibbs: It is a matter of preference. There are universal keys that officers can utilize. There are documented examples in public safety where locked, unmanned police vehicles have prevented fire and EMS from getting to patients.

Click here to view the webinar on-demand to continue planning your MCI response.

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