By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, MEP, Lead Trainer for the CEM Commission, and Chair, IAEM-Global Communications Work Group
Last month we discussed Implementation relating to Emergency Operations and Response Plans. This month completes our discussion of Implementation with a focus on Employee Assistance and Support.
For many years businesses have implemented programs that provided for employee assistance and support following a disaster. Government agencies have done this to varying degrees too. Both entities learned that providing for their employees helped them survive and accomplish their assigned missions during adverse conditions.
But it wasn’t until the 2010 version was published that NFPA 1600 had a requirement to specifically include employees and their families in an entity’s emergency management program. This requirement establishes a framework for both public and private entities that is consistent and inclusive. So what does the standard say?
According to all NFPA 1600 versions beginning with 2010, “The entity shall develop a strategy for employee assistance and support.” This strategy includes the following specific activities:
These are not new activities, and we’ve covered them in previous articles. So we know they can be part of existing policies and procedures. We know they also can be standalone policies and procedures. The point is we need to specifically include our employees and their families in the planning and execution of the entity’s emergency plans.
The standard tells us this strategy could be referred to as continuity. That is continuity of the entity’s workforce or the “human aspects of continuity” rather than business continuity, continuity of operations, or continuity of government. This continuity program “includes the entity’s employees and their families or significant others affected by the incident.” We know from previous studies and experience that our responders will be more effective knowing their families are provided for before, during, and following an incident.
Following along with our All Hazards concepts, NFPA 1600 requires the strategy to be “flexible for use in all incidents.” The Whole Community concept also is included as the standard calls for the entity to “promote family preparedness education and training for employees” as well as “customers, vendors, and other parties [who] might be located at the entity’s facility.”
Finally, the standard states, “The entity should develop policies and procedures to store, retrieve, and control access to personal information when needed in an emergency situation, including systems to facilitate reunification of family members.”
As for the previous standards, this one too does not describe how to do all of this, so for the exam we refer back to various FEMA Independent Study Courses. FEMA does not have an independent study course specifically addressing Employee Assistance and Support. Therefore, we need to review independent study courses related to the activities that make up the strategy, such as IS-230d Fundamentals of Emergency Management, IS-235d Emergency Planning, IS-242b Effective Communication, and IS-910a Emergency Management Preparedness Fundamentals, as well as A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action (FDOC 104-008-1/December 2011) with the idea of including Employee Assistance and Support as part of the procedures.
The application process for both the CEM® and the AEM® does not require the candidate to address Employee Assistance and Support specifically as one of the required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) components for the emergency management essay. However, it does require discussion of Preparedness and Response activities. In addition, candidates may choose Employee Assistance and Support as a key component of their Problem Statement. If you decide to choose Employee Assistance and Support as one of your key components for your essay, be sure to include many of the requirements discussed above.
Here are two core-type questions for our analysis in this article.
1. An entity’s workforce consists of different ages and cultural groups as well as some with access and functional needs. Which of the following methods allow the entity to effectively communicate emergency messages with this diverse group?
a. Ensure the message is written at the eighth grade reading level.
b. Limit the use of alternative types of communications.
c. Provide the information in multiple formats.
d. Use the dominant language and one other language.
This question is asking you first to understand how to communicate your emergency messages to an entity’s workforce, and then to choose the correct response among the four possible responses. The first response says to write the message at the eighth grade reading level. While that is good for many people, the majority of folks read at the fifth grade reading level – and some cannot read at all! So the message may be read by many of the workforce, it may not be read by all of them. Therefore, this response is incorrect. The second response is to limit the use of alternative types of communications. We know those with functional and access needs do not all communicate using the same type of communication channels and equipment. Therefore, this response is not correct either.
The third response of providing the message in multiple formats addresses the problem with the second response and appears to be the correct response. The fourth response may be correct if the workforce consists of people who speak, read, and understand only two languages. Since we do not know this from the question the response is also incorrect. Therefore, the correct response is c. (See IS 242.b.)
2. As the emergency manager, you are developing methodologies to inform employees and their families following the occurrence of an event. Which group of methodologies or channels will reach the most diverse group of people?
a. Automated notification systems, call centers, and call lists.
b. Instant messaging, message boards, and email.
c. Radio and television, social media, and meetings.
d. Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook.
In this question, we are asking you to understand the characteristics of various methods and technologies used to communicate during an emergency response and apply that knowledge to send emergency messages to an entity’s diverse group of employees and family members. To reach the most people, the methodologies chosen must address multiple senses and use multiple channels.
The first response uses only audio senses to send the message, so that may not reach those with hearing impairments, though the automated notification systems might. We just don’t know for sure. The second response addresses the visual senses with written messages, though it is possible some individuals may be able to translate the written word into audio messages. Again, we just don’t know for sure.
The third response includes the capability to address audio and visual senses with voice, written word, and even video and imagery, addressing multiple senses using multiple technologies. This appears to be the correct answer so far, but let’s verify this by checking the last response. The last response contains various social media channels. These may be able to address multiple channels, but only if the receiver has access to the Internet. So this response is incorrect.
While of all the above choices should make up the entity’s emergency communication dissemination system to reach the majority of employees and their family members, only response c includes more options, senses, and channels than the other three responses do. (See IS 242.b.)
When reading the questions and responses, be sure you understand exactly what the question is asking of you and read each response before selecting the correct one.
Next month we begin our discussion of Training and Education. We also will analyze some practice exam questions. As usual, please send any questions you have about the examination or the certification process to me at email@example.com, and I will address them in future articles.
IAEM Bulletin, February 2017
AEM® and CEM® are registered trademarks of the International Association of Emergency Managers.