When it comes to emergency planning and response, there is an abundance of resources to help enterprises prepare to mitigate the impact of an incident.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has devised the National Incident Management System (NIMS), aimed at defining and standardising ways that resources can be used to manage and respond to an incident. An enterprise’s Emergency Operations Plan, or EOP, incorporates NIMS concepts and spells out what to do in an emergency.

Security equipment purchases

But how does an EOP relate to security equipment purchases? In the language of FEMA, enterprises should ask themselves: How do I currently ‘resource type’ my electronic countermeasures as part of my critical incident response plan? In FEMA parlance, ‘resource typing’ is categorising resources according to capability using FEMA’s ‘Typing Library Tool’. The tool identifies technologies that can improve response.

Technology purchases should be considered in the context of their role in the larger plan, says Jerry Wilkins, PSP, Vice President of Active Risk Survival. “Currently, that doesn’t happen, and we as an industry do not even speak in the same language as those who guide emergency responses to which security equipment can be a useful contributor,” Wilkins says.

The tool identifies technologies that can improve response.
The National Incident Management System is aimed at defining and standardising ways that resources can be used to manage and respond to an incident

Wilkins speaks with authority based on a long career in the industry. Beyond his experience working in burglar alarms, home security, and as a manufacturer’s rep, Wilkins has expanded his expertise to the broader categories of incident command, emergency response and law enforcement. He has received FEMA IS-0100 (incident command training) and has sought to apply it to critical incidents, active shooters and other emergency situations. He has attended Solo Engagement Operator Training (SWAT school) and Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) military training.

Responding to emergencies

As a student in a broad array of disciplines, Wilkins has sought to engage the security technology industry in an important conversation: What can we do as an industry to apply technical capabilities to the question of how to respond to an emergency?

Adherence to best practices can help to avoid liability – and save lives

For example, CCTV is a valuable tool for situational awareness, but it wasn’t deployed in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in 2018 until 24 minutes into the incident. “By the time they decided to use the video, [the shooter] was already gone. They had 15 high-definition cameras, but they did not know how to use the technology for situational awareness because it was not part of the Emergency Operations Plan. They could have known every move [the shooter] made if the technology had been part of the EOP,” says Wilkins.

Here is another example from the Parkland shooting incident response. When responding to an incident, Emergency Medical Service (EMS) typically divides a site into three levels – hot zones, warm zones, and cold zones – based on danger levels. In the Parkland shooting, the 1200 building went ‘cold’ – meaning it was safe – as soon as the shooter left the building. But it was 58 minutes before they called it a ‘cold’ zone, thus delaying survivors’ access to emergency care that could have saved lives. Better situational awareness, provided by leveraging CCTV, would have made the difference.

If OSHA puts out a white paper on how to protect a facility and you don’t do it and have an event occur, how does that look?"

There are a number of other available standards, processes and other documents to guide emergency response. Adherence to best practices can help to avoid liability – and save lives. Ignoring known and well-documented best practices can leave an enterprise vulnerable in the aftermath of an incident. Understanding these principles and best practices can help security equipment companies understand how the benefits of their products can be maximised in this context. Here are some available resources:

  • NFPA 3000, a 42-page provisional standard for responding to an active shooter, addresses all aspects of the process, from identifying hazards and assessing vulnerability to planning, resource management, incident management at a command level, competencies for first responders, and recovery.
  • National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) has created Standards and Best Practices for School Resource Officer Programs.
  • PASS (Partner Alliance for Safer Schools) has compiled School Safety and Security Guidelines and a School Security Checklist.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released ‘Making Prevention a Reality: Identifying, Assessing and Managing the Threat of Targeted Attacks’.
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released ‘Planning and Response to an Active Shooter: An Interagency Security Committee Policy and Best Practices Guide’.
  • U.S. Secret Service has released ‘Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model: An Operational Guide for Preventing Targeted School Violence’.
  • OSHA 3148 provides policy guidance and procedures to be followed related to occupational exposure to workplace violence. (OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
  • OSHA’s ‘general duty’ clause requires that each employer furnish to each of its employees a workplace that is free from recognised hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

“If OSHA puts out a white paper on how to protect a facility and you don’t do it and have an event occur, how does that look?” says Wilkins. “It’s regulatory guidance that you could have followed but didn’t.”

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Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

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