The Human Impact in Emergency Incident Response: Part One – Remember Your Response Team

Keri Griffith

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Jul 18, 2023

As a crisis and emergency manager, business as usual in a typical work day consists of conducting training, building a response team and developing drills, among other duties. But life changes dramatically when an serious incident happens, and plays out over an extended period. I am often struck by how different that new reality becomes. The long hours, the change in eating and the strain on family life all become part of this new reality.

That's why it's important for emergency planners and managers to support their teams during an incident response. An incident's impact on responders' lives can be dramatic and often not well-considered in planning. As the outcomes of a fire or a spill worsen and further affect the community, co-workers, and the environment, the response team can become absorbed in their focus and motivation to stay with the problem, which is part of the job. Attending to one's own needs just isn't natural in these cases.

Working long hours in an intense environment is physically and emotionally exhausting. Moreover, responding to an incident can be a traumatic experience for team members. Several years ago, I responded to an incident involving a fatality shortly after losing a close family member, which triggered me emotionally. Experiencing a response that hit close to home while working long hours was daunting.

What can you do to help? In my experience, I found it very helpful when the command center offered regular support to help me get through the response rather than expecting me to rely solely on myself. Command center staff can cap the number of hours that responders work and encourage fellow responders to check in with each other and observe. It's also important to make sure the team receives adequate and nutritious food and water and that medicine for basic first aid, headaches, or pain relief is available.

Ultimately, having that support goes a long way toward reducing staff turnover, maintaining decision-making ability, and preventing burnout. In my next posts, I'll discuss some additional tips on how to support responders, including how digital solutions like Jensen Hughes SMARTPLAN™ can help streamline your organization’s response planning.

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About the author

Keri Griffith
Keri is an accomplished Business Crisis and Continuity professional with over 20 years of broad-based experience in emergency management, business crisis, business continuity, recovery site management and safety leadership. Keri Griffith is the Market Director for Jensen Hughes Digital Solutions, which includes our emergency management SMARTPLAN™ solution.