A Community Emergency Support Plan (CESP) can be developed for small towns (400 or fewer) or unincorporated villages to take care of the many things that do not fall into the Emergency Response Team's responsibilities. These suggestions assume a local volunteer fire department and no civic structure i.e. no mayor or city manager beyond the chief of the volunteer fire department. This post will start an annotated outline for a CESP for small communities ( I'll use "Star City" as a generic town name) which do not have paid professional emergency management staff.
Your plan should be drafted by a small team, 8 or fewer people, and then reviewed and improved by a larger group. How you do this will be based on your community dynamics. Keep your fire chief informed and, if he/she requests to be involved, please say YES! If you ask for fire department/ EMS team member, ask by name. You may otherwise encounter the person who says "we don't need a plan. Everyone knows what to do." Kiss of death, potentially literally.
These sections should follow in order:
NAME OF PLAN
PURPOSE OF PLAN: should be a short delineation of what the CESP proposes to do. Example: The purpose of this plan is to provide lodging, food and [fill in the blank] support to persons affected by local emergency operations and to provide support such as meals to local EMS personnel during an extended emergency situation. This plan augments and does not replace the Emergency Response Plan of the Star City Volunteer Fire Department and the Star County Emergency Services Department.
DEFINITIONS: This is where you start to clearly define the meaning of words used in the purpose and elsewhere. Include a definition of 'local,' 'emergency', etc. This or the purpose may also be the place to identify a threshold for activation of the plan. Does this plan go into effect for a single house fire, or only when 10 or more people or 3 or more households are affected?
LOCAL: this plan covers people living in or otherwise unable to depart the area from the Forest Service boundary at XYZ to mile marker 111 on AK highway 222 and to the Star City turn off on AK HWY 333.
EMERGENCY: displacement of more than 10 residents or other local people caused by fire, flood, prolonged electrical outage, earthquake, or [name your potential emergencies here].
ASSUMPTIONS: This section is VERY important. For example, if the plan depends on the Star City Community Center ( or John Smith's pole barn) being available for operations and unaffected or minimally affected by the emergency, state that. Additionally, work with your EMS lead (fire chief, or whatever is local) to ensure that they will refer ALL support issues to the support team, once formed. Recent experience is that failure to do this just increases the chaos in an otherwise fluid situation. (Team lead accepted donations of hamburgers for lunch (form local provider) on same day EMS dispatcher accepted donation of hamburgers for dinner on same day. Dinner hamburgers were from 70 miles away and should not have been even considered due to food safety issues)
SUPPORT MANAGEMENT TEAM (SMT)
Roles and Responsibilities: This section should name the roles and responsibilities of the team members, who should include the overall plan manager and vice, functional team leaders and vices, liaison with the local Emergency services provider and designated spokesperson for media inquiries. Some team members or leaders may need to have specific experience or training. That should be included here.
Because you do not know who will be affected by the emergencies, always have a provision for teams having a qualified vice chair.
Media or the public will have questions. Only specifically designated roles should speak for the group. Individuals may be interviewed about their specific duties but should not speak for the broader process.
This section should also outline meeting schedules before and during an emergency. A plan for an After-Action Review and documenting plan improvement should also be covered here.
DUTIES AND FUNCTIONS: This part of the plan outlines what aspects of support the plan covers, which Management Team Role is responsible for that part of the plan, and WHEN the duties and functions are to occur. The role of the Overall SMT Chief is to ensure integration. At minimum, consider sections on lodging, food service, sanitation, cooling or warming centers, communications, and first aid station. Obviously, close coordination with local EMS or volunteer fire departments is required.
Much of the work for the plan must occur before an emergency. This includes lining up potential lodging, sources of sanitation equipment such as portable potties and potable water tankers, certification of potential feeding venues, training of personnel in food or field sanitation, coordination with regional officials, discussions with supply sources for donations in advance or at the time of the emergency, etc. All this will be incorporated in the plan in APPENDICES. Coordination with the respective County EMS coordinator should be part of developing many of these appendices to include what is available from them and when. Some services may not be available until the emergency has been in effect for 72 hours, so plans should bridge any identified time or support gaps.
The plan should also include HOW and WHERE evacuee processing will occur. Ideally, one integrated process at a single location with minimal registration requirements should be established. This does not mean that all lodging and meals will be at that location, just that getting assignments and information is a one-stop process.
The Lodging Team Lead will ensure that at least 3 alternatives for lodging up to a total of 50 people will be documented in Appendix A. Alternatives should include combinations of commercial and willing private accommodations, and at least one alternative will include dormitory-style accommodations in the Star City Community Center.
Details including maps, points of contact, number of people who can be supported and whether meals are included will be provided for each lodging location offered.
The team will develop a system for assigning lodging and tracking the whereabouts of evacuees once processed through lodging.
The team will also provide instructions in advance to community members on how to maintain their personal accountability to the team during an emergency (this is to account for people who have gone to stay with friends or relatives and will prevent potential injury to EMS personnel who may go into an unsafe area to account for those people)
The lodging team will be available with copies of the Appendix at the Star City Courthouse within 3 hours of a call from the Emergency Management Lead or Emergency Support Lead and will assign lodging based on need.
The lodging team lead will coordinate with the food management team to let them know how many evacuated people will require meals.
That's it for now and should provide food for thought.