Even in a “typical” year, well-understood, seasonal threats present incredible challenges to governments, responding agencies, and citizens. 2020 has been anything but ordinary, and adding a public health crisis to the mix makes disaster scenarios exponentially more complex. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts 2020 will be an above average hurricane season. As of this writing, the season’s third named storm is already churning. Wildfires and tornadoes, too, will continue to have increasing and far-reaching impacts. And what of unknown, less predictable threats?

We’re in uncharted waters, but strategic thinking and quick, consistent action will set the compass.

Create Coronavirus-Specific SOP’s

Disaster response phases and best practices are well documented and widely agreed upon. But adding the wild card of a global pandemic clearly changes the game. As clinical professor and homeland security and emergency management researcher Magdalena Denham puts it, “We are in a situation now where everybody is potentially a threat.” 1

In this environment, look to the guidelines of the CDC, FEMA, and other trusted organizations to help adapt your established practices to current demands. For example, social distancing can be promoted by leveraging vehicle exterior and cab workstations (as found on the Nomad TCV), and by limiting command shelter access.

Community spread can be mitigated with frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch areas, and by bringing galley services outside the vehicle. Consider contracting with a portable restroom provider and have several options on speed dial, as these services are stressed in emergencies.

Recognize That Resources Might Be Dispersed (or Virtual)

Former head of FEMA Craig Fugate identifies emergency comms as the next challenge of COVID-19. “When communications break down during a disaster response, chaos follows,” he says. 2

The answer? Redundancy.

Coronavirus will compound secondary disasters like fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, stretching teams and assets thin. Make sure you have redundant connectivity (cell, satellite, terrestrial), comms (radio, smartphone, IP-based), and power (generator, battery, solar) in place, and that anyone who will use them — including volunteers — is trained. Neverdown Technologies brings this critical redundancy into an off-the-shelf option.

Prepare to organize and command virtually. The pandemic has forced seismic shifts in the way work gets done, and the lessons learned can be applied to next-gen response. Cloud-based incident management software, accessible by remote teams from any device, should be on every Emergency Manager’s radar. In the short term, free video conferencing and project management tools can fill the gaps.

Start up, Interop, Shut Down, Repeat

We’ve said it before… The time to exercise assets and personnel is now. And tomorrow. And the next day. Run through entire deployment and shutdown cycles, communicate your plans to neighboring agencies, then test and interop together. When you encounter problems or inefficiencies, note and report them so that supervisors, leads, and parent agencies are aware of what’s needed (and the relative urgency).

If you have a CDL asset, is everyone who might need to operate current on licensing? Do you have multiple locations in mind to which you’d be able to deploy (good/better/best)?

Need to brush up on these and other considerations? Here are a couple articles with more info:

In short, don’t wait for something to break, leaving those you serve vulnerable when they need you most. Adopt a “proactive service” model that identifies problems and opportunities for improvement before an emergency. Whether you’re a current customer or not, Nomad’s Success Team is on call to share decades of learning. Contact them here with details about your challenges.

Are you preparing for disasters that will be complicated by COVID-19? We can help.