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Coordinating with External Agencies

DRI International (DRII) has developed an overview of professional practices designed to “assist the entity in the development and implementation of a BCM program.” In addition to being sound resiliency methods, these practices serve as a foundation for various DRII business continuity professional certifications.

With this resource as a guide, we at Send Word Now are briefly examining each professional practice, tying in relevant concepts surrounding emergency communications.

If you’ve followed our business continuity professional practices blog post series over the past year, you know we’ve discussed topics such as initiating a BCM program, risk evaluation and control, business impact analysis and business continuity planning and implementation. We’ve also tied in emergency notification practices and concepts to each of these areas of discipline.

In this, our final installment of the series, we’ll examine DRI Professional Practice 10: Coordinating with External Agencies. This practice area focuses on “establishing policies and procedures to coordinate response, continuity and recovery activities with external agencies…while ensuring compliance with applicable statutes and regulations.”

According to DRI, the business continuity manager’s roles in this practice include:

– Identifying and establishing emergency preparedness and response procedures
– Identifying applicable regulations and the appropriate agencies with jurisdiction over the organization’s facilities
– Coordinating emergency preparedness and response procedures with external agencies

Some of the work related to coordination of external agencies may have already been completed in earlier stages. For example, assessing the capabilities (and possibly the limitations) of first responders may have been covered in the “Needs Assessment” portion of Professional Practice Five.

Other work elements in this phase are centered on enhancing first responders’ ability to adequately react to critical events affecting the organization. DRI International offers the following suggestions for tasks to undertake:

– Develop and document emergency alerting procedures (e.g., automatic via fire alarm, telephone, etc.)
– Establish an open dialogue with first responder representatives
– Invite first responders to tour the organization’s facilities in order to develop a “pre-incident plan”
– Develop procedures and locations for establishing an incident command post where agencies can meet the organization’s incident commander
– Coordinate, conduct or participate in training, drills, and exercises with first responders
– Conduct a debrief meeting following the exercises and document improvement actions

Emergency Notification Considerations

Emergency notification technology can play an important role when communicating with and coordinating the actions of external agencies. Consider the following key recommendations:

Identify and document any mandated third-party notifications. Regulatory requirements, local statutes or even contractual obligations may impact third-party notification processes and procedures. Make sure these are clearly understood before an incident occurs.

Communicate notification capabilities to first responders during pre-incident meetings. It may be helpful for first responder agencies to have an understanding of the full spectrum of capabilities for communicating with employees and other stakeholders. Review high-level communication plans/tools with responder agencies during any pre-incident meetings.

Determine if/how the notification system should be used during an event for interactions with first responders. While initial dispatching of first responders should be achieved by calling 9-1-1, depending on the situation and agency relationship, notification systems may be used as a bridge between organizational and incident commanders. As an example, gathering response team members on a conference call by using the system’s one-touch bridge connection may be a rapid, effective way to mobilize team members for a situational assessment.

Utilize your notification service during first responder tests and exercises. There’s no better time to exercise your notification system than during a wider preparedness exercise. Practice situations like launching notifications from a mobile app to simulate procedures followed in the midst of a building evacuation (which included the departure of a system administrator).

In a crisis situation affecting personnel or citizen safety, no organization is an island. Policies and procedures for coordinating with external agencies should be defined and exercised to ensure an effective response. And, don’t forget the significant part notification systems can play in protecting lives, securing assets and helping the organization return to a “business as usual” status.