Emergency Operations Center Tips and Techniques
This information is from my new book, The Ultimate Business Continuity Success Guide: How to Build Real-World Resilience and Unleash Exciting New Value Streams. Happily it is now Amazon’s #1 searched business continuity book. I hope you enjoy the chapter. and the book.
Emergency Operations Center Tips and Techniques
An Emergency Operations Center (EOC) or Command Center is a central command and control facility responsible for carrying out the principles of emergency preparedness and emergency management at a strategic level during an emergency, and ensuring the continuity of operations for your organization.
Having a well thought out Emergency Operations Center is critical to successfully managing your response and recovery.
Here is a basket-full of tips:
Tip – You should implement multiple options for your physical EOC /Alternate EOC in case one or more is not available at the time of crisis. Options include your production site, a sister site if geographically feasible, hotel or vendor location.
Tip – Your EOC /Alternate EOC can be dedicated space or a meeting/conference room that will be commandeered during a crisis.
Tip – Your physical EOC /Alternate EOC must include equipment and a battle box with all supplies and documentation you will need to make decisions and communicate both internally and externally. Visit the Emergency Operations Center on a regular basis, especially if you will be using a conference room in a sister site. Make sure your supplies are locked up and have not disappeared. Please inspect batteries, headphones, supplies, water and laptops.
You do not need any surprises at time of disaster. It is frustrating to have headsets available but the batteries are dead or missing. Use a checklist to review all important supplies, equipment and plans to insure you are ready and do not miss anything.
Tip – You will need subject matter experts to help with making decisions. Make sure your conference number is full-featured. Muting and operator assistance are essential, as you could have a lot of people on the call and invariably in the real-world someone will put you on hold and there will be background music. Did that ever happen to you with 50 people on the call? It sucks if you cannot stop the music!
Tip – You must also have a virtual Emergency Operations Center. A conference line is essential, as there will be times you must meet at a moment’s notice during non-working hours. In my experience, many incidents occur during the evening, weekends and very early morning. Welcome to our world!
Tip – Make sure the conference line can accommodate more people than you expect to call. Getting a ‘conference full’ during a crisis is real nasty. I have seen that on occasions and it is BAD! If you think you might top out at 50 people on a call – get a line that supports 150 or more!!
Tip – Here is a little trick you might find useful: if you are inviting people to the conference call by email or text and you know they are using an iPhone you can format use ‘phone number’, ‘password#’. An example would be 5555555555,1234#. When the recipient clicks on the link, the iPhone will automatically dial the phone number, automatically input the participant code and automatically drop the caller in the conference.
If you are using Android, it will dial the phone number and you can then manually input the participant code. You may even come up with improvements by the time you read this. Any manual input you can eliminate to make it easier for people – do it. Every second counts.
Tip – Insure there is a high level of awareness of the EOC /Alternate EOC options.
Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is in a centrally located site allowing rapid response
Tip –Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is in an area that avoids congestion (i.e., transportation choke-points such as inadequate thoroughfares, bridges, etc.).
Tip –Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is in a facility that has structural integrity.
Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is in an area that can be quickly secured.
Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is not located in a known high-risk area; e.g., floods, earthquakes, nuclear power plant, Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) sites, etc.
Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC is located near an adequate road network for ease of access.
Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC space, whether it is dedicated (set aside and configured for EOC use only) or for multi-use not dedicated (such as an office, administrative, or conference area that is used for day-to-day functions), will be made available to support emergency response and management operations.
Typically, the day-to-day staff are displaced to another location. Get the agreement in writing so there is no confusion at time of disaster. Trust me, the can move the sales meeting or retirement party. As you know – when you need the command space – you need the space command space!
Tip – Consider using one large room rather than several rooms that collectively comprise the EOC /Alternate EOC. You will have better communication.
Tip – Insure the EOC /Alternate EOC has adequate space to support the emergency response staff.
Tip – Consider if the EOC /Alternate EOC can survive the effects of relevant risks; e.g., natural and man-made hazards.
Tip – Consider implementing special structural capabilities to improve the EOC /Alternate EOC survivability.
Tip – Consider the EOC /Alternate EOC having a collective protection system for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear (CBRN) agents.
Tip -Consider the EOC /Alternate EOC having protection from blast effects.
Tip – Consider the impact of where the EOC /Alternate EOC is located, whether it be above the ground floor, on the ground floor, or below grade. This will depend on your risk factors.
Tip – Is the EOC /Alternate EOC and any multi-use space connected to a local dial central office? These telephones are just like those found in a home or office. The advantage is that if the EOC /Alternate EOC loses power to the PBX, telephones connected directly to the dial central office will continue to function.
Tip – If you require it, insure EOC /Alternate EOC telephones have – 1) Recording capability 2) Caller ID capability 3) Voice conferencing capability.
Tip – Consider the need for the EOC /Alternate EOC telecommunications capability be be configured to support the scale of emergency response and management activities.
Tip – Consider the need for the EOC /Alternate EOC and any multi-use space to have the capability to display video feeds for situational awareness information.
Tip – Consider the need for the EOC /Alternate EOC and any multi-use space to have video teleconferencing capability.
Tip – Insure you have the proper number of printers available in the EOC/Alternate EOC and any multi-use space adequate to support emergency response operations.
Tip – Perform ample scenario based testing from the EOC / Alternate EOC. Play through crisis events from start to finish. You will learn a lot of valuable information you can apply to your real-world readiness program.
Let’s now discuss techniques to respond and recover using powerful tools and technologies. Tools that can empower us with real-time situational awareness and communications.