Achieving Coordination Through Unity of Effort

WESA 90.5, Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station, posted an interesting article titled ‘Trump Rally To Blame for Emergency Response Revamp’.  As the articles tells the story, an internal City committee spent several weeks reviewing communications and other information after an April rally in which three were arrested and four police officers suffered minor injuries.  The findings of the committee’s work included the discovery of fractured planning and response within the City of Pittsburgh.  Assuming this has been a regular practice, I’m surprised it took them this long to discover the issue and begin work to address it – although when a jurisdiction functions in a fractured fashion, it’s an easy observation to miss.

The City’s Public Safety Director stated a new system is being implemented in which a ‘unified and streamlined approach to planning’ and a ‘clearer chain of command’ will be put in place.  The article indicates that the City’s Emergency Management Office will have more of a role in coordination.

It’s good to see that Pittsburgh is making some changes to how they plan for and respond to incidents.  This should serve as a role model for a significant number of jurisdictions across the nation – and I’m sure across the world – which have siloed planning and response, with each agency conducting their own activities with little to no coordination.  Proper and safe emergency management requires a team approach, and every team needs someone to coordinate and lead.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that emergency management is in charge – in fact I feel it’s a rare occasion that emergency management should be in charge – but coordination is still an essential element of success, particularly for complex planning and operations.

The term ‘unity of effort’ is gaining more and more traction through the years.  I first heard it probably ten or twelve years ago.  I was pleased to see the intention of adding the term officially to our lexicon in the draft NIMS Refresh document that was released a couple months back.  Although it was just a mention, it was rather encouraging.  Unity of effort doesn’t require an emergency management office or an emergency manager, but having a central point of coordination helps – especially one that isn’t focused or constrained by the mission and tactics of other public safety agencies.  The mission of emergency management IS coordination!

How do you rate the public safety coordination in your jurisdiction?  Is there room for improvement?  While politics are often at play, sometimes it just takes a good measure of facilitation to bring people together in one room and talk about what needs to be accomplished.

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC – Your Partner in Preparedness

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