There is no magic bullet that will help account for staff at the onset of an incident through the ﬁrst 0-4 and then 24-48 hours. It takes process and education and repeated drills in order to be sure that even a small percentage of staff can see through their own angst to follow the process during the onset of an incident. This is not an easy hill to climb and when you reach the top, you automatically slide down to the bottom, only to have to start again.
As many of us in the industry saw and experienced during 9/11, many people do not know who they are and how they will react during a catastrophic event. This makes it very difficult to ensure that we can establish a process with a set of guidelines and tools that help staff to focus on accountability. Many will become paralyzed; many will focus on leaving, period. This is understood and leaves us with a question: How can we establish evacuation and accountability processes when even our own Crisis Team/Safety Team and/or Fire Wardens are subject to their own responses to an incident that they may not be prepared to handle? And although we can create process, provide tools and guidelines, education and drills, we never really know how people are going to react. All drills are simulations. We can only hope that by repeating the educational sessions and drills that we eventually raise the percentage of those who will respond to the process and guidelines that we establish during the incident over a period of years.
We need to understand our community with whom we are trying to account for and remember that when they joined the particular ﬁrm with whom they are working, that they did not sign-on to deal with catastrophic events. They joined to better their career or their bank account/investments. And, as much as we try to explain that the world has changed, staff are not yet ready to take this on as part of the working requirement.
Every process has an entity. Here, the entities are staff; the wireless network and the event, itself. Every one of these entities are a major variable that cannot be controlled. We can only do the best we can to train, educate, exercise. The rest is up to those entities engaged in the process at the time of the incident.
We started this article by saying that there is no magic bullet. This is true. Because of the variables; e.g. the incident; staff response; health/welfare of the communications systems, we cannot establish a single process but rather, suggest a series of processes, establish educational venues, provide a phased-in approach to accountability through various means of communication and ﬁnally, ensure that staff have the necessary tools supporting a strong communications process
What is Accountability?
- Accountability is a process that can potentially save lives by determining through process and visual and abbreviated methods of communication, status of staff within the ﬁrst 0-1 hour; 1-4 hours; 4-8 hours and 24/48 hours after the onset of a catastrophic event.
- The goal of the process is to attempt to save lives and identify staff status (who needs medical assistance, who may still be left in the building) and to communicate this information to a First Responders to better direct their search into the building.
- Accountability focuses on saving lives on the onset of the event and through the ﬁrst 24-48 hours. This is the time when we need to know who needs medical attention (whether physical or psychological); who is available to continue with the business process; who may have died as a result of the event. This process directly affects the health and welfare of the Business as Accountability of staff focuses on the most important asset of any Company: its staff.
Benefits of Staff Accountability
- Will hopefully save lives on the onset of an event by being able to ﬁnd staff when they need medical attention.
- To help First Responders re-direct their search into a building by providing: a street address, a map of the ﬂoor (ingress/egress points of the building and the layout of an uninjured ﬂoor); the name of a person that can help the person respond when they may be medically or psychologically spent.
- To help to save the lives of First Responders by providing a more directed search.
- To help healing of staff by being able to account for staff quickly at the onset of an event - cutting short the time at the assembly point so that they may leave the area and connect with their family.
- To support the resiliency of the business by being able to identify available staff and their status.
As many know, it can be difficult to get “buy-in” for the business and the staff to maintain their call trees. There is no way around this, unfortunately. Whether maintained on spreadsheets or with notiﬁcation systems, a plan is required to determine resource requirements and costs for the call tree maintenance process.
“Buy-In” is required from the following Departments: Human Resources; the CEO; the Department Head; the Business BCP representatives and the Administrator.
One would hope that these sponsors understand that Accountability saves lives and moves the Business Community out of the incident phase to that of the healing and resilience.Most importantly, you must be able to gather “buy-in” from staff. They are the people who will have to make a choice to engage in accountability, at whatever point in the process. They have to be able to reconcile who they are/become at the on set and during the ﬁrst 48 hours of an event and be able to see the need to move away from their fears and previous experience to engage or just even communicate their status.
What Accountability is Not
Accountability is not a notification process; e.g. a run-through of the call tree process, although it uses the process and call tree information. The Call Tree is a notification tool, not an accountability process.
Accountability cannot be performed by an automated notification/response system. We can never be sure that the “response key” was pressed because the person was alive or due to falling debris that happened to hit the key.
Most importantly, we can never assume that anyone is not in danger until we can visualize them or receive some response from them through texting, email or, if possible, cellular call.
The Accountability Process - A Phased-In Approach.
If we look at the complete end-to-end process, we ﬁnd that we may need a phased-in approach because we want to answer the following questions:
- 1. Did staff evacuate the building?
- 2. Is staff safe?
- 3. Can we account for staff who are in the hospital or who have passed on as a result of the incident?
- 4. Did staff make it home?
- 5. Are critical staff able to assume their roles to respond to the next-day mission critical business process?
- 6. If critical staff have not been accounted for is the team of alternates available to assume the role of critical staff to perform the mission critical process.
We need to identify various means of communication based time as it moves away from the event and where staff are in the overall, end-to-end process. For example, we may account for staff at the assembly point, but they still have to make it home; still need to check in - especially to gather information from their Management or actually identify that they are able to fulﬁll the role of performing mission critical business processes the next day. So, this is a process that unfolds over time.
The Accountability Process.
- Staff follow directions of Corporate Security or Building Management/Director of Fire/Safety regarding Evacuation.
- Staff evacuate and are directed to the Assembly Point.
PHASE I ACCOUNTABILITY: Staff visibly account for staff and identify staff who are not at the Assembly Point by take note on their call trees.
- Staff attempt texting/emailing the missing staff quickly. Staff wait roughly 3 minutes between calls and only make 2 attempts.
- Staff follow direction of Corporate Security or Building Management/Director of Fire/Safety regarding leaving the Assembly Point.
- Staff provide their call tree to the Corporate Security/Building Manager Fire/Safety Team or to a First Responder in order to direct their search back into the building to look for staff that are known not to be accounted for.
- Staff leave the area and at a point of safety and connect with their families.
PHASE 2 ACCOUNTABILITY: Staff arrive home and call into the Emergency Hotline to leave their status re: arrival home.
PHASE 3 ACCOUNTABILITY: Staff commence their Departmental Conference Calls via their Conference Bridge to discuss business status and next day continuance of the business process. The Department Manager or Alternate communicate their results re: accountability with their Business Head or Alternate on the Crisis Management Team.
PHASE 4 ACCOUNTABILITY: Staff re-commence their Departmental Conference Call via their Conference Bridge, at the alloted time or through trigger of a notiﬁcation call/system, to discuss any changes in Accountability that may have occurred through the night and hence any changes to the continuation of the business. The Department Manager or Alternate communicate their results re: accountability with their Business Head or Alternate on the Crisis Management Team.
PHASE 5 ACCOUNTABILITY: Business Continuity and Human Resource Teams review the input from the Hotline and the Departmental Conference Calls and begin identifying who is still missing. The ﬁrst list would be sent to Corporate Security within 24 hours of the event and a revised list, 48 hours. Corporate Security will then work with City Agencies to perform Search/Rescue and create death certificates.
5.1. There are those who may prefer to leave on their own volition. In this case, the process can look like this:
5.2. Staff evacuation the building on their own volition.
5.3. Staff leave the area and at a point of safety connect with their families.
5.4. PHASE 1 ACCOUNTABILITY: Staff responds to any emails or text messages, if possible, from those attempting to account to them.
5.5. PHASE 2 ACCOUNTABILITY: Staff arrive home and call into the Emergency Hotline to leave their status re: arrival home.
5.6. PHASE 3 ACCOUNTABILITY: Staff commence their Departmental Conference Calls via their Conference Bridge to discuss business status and next day continuance of the business process.
6. PHASE 4 ACCOUNTABILITY: Staff re-commence their Departmental Conference Call via their Conference Bridge, at the alloted time or through trigger of a notiﬁcation call/system, to discuss any changes in Accountability that may have occurred through the night and hence any changes to the continuation of the business.
7. PHASE 5 ACCOUNTABILITY: Business Continuity and Human Resource Teams review the input from the Hotline and the Departmental Conference Calls and begin identifying who is still missing. They make an attempt to communicate with those who are missing and their family to determine status. • The ﬁrst list would be sent to Corporate Security within 24 hours of the event and a revised list, 48 hours. Corporate Security will then work with City Agencies to perform Search/Rescue and create death certiﬁcates.
The Components of the Accountability Process.
The accountability process can include as little as the hard-copy call tree; the Emergency Hotline and the Departmental Conference calling number to the following components:
Where do you start?
Remember the adage: “Safety First.” With this in mind, create your Crisis Management Team, call tree and communications ﬁrst. Then, continue with the rest of the items, based on your business requirement.
1. Create the call tree process (primary/alternate callers and who will be accountable for who) for each Business/ Department.
2. Identify who will be accountable for the call tree process and for its administration.
3. Gather the call tree information: Ofﬁce, Home, Cellular, Emergency Numbers.
4. Create the hard copy call tree/electronic call tree.
5. Determine how staff will communicate their status and purchase a hotline / emergency number if possible.
- If you prefer now to have have number answered by people, purchase voice mail box/boxes per business and ensure that everyone is educated on how to leave / access messages.
- Determine two primary and two alternates who will own the number, be accountable for required logons and passwords as well as change greetings.
- Create the team who will gather and analyze the accountability information.
- Test the call tree with staff. 7. Test the Hotline number with staff.
1. Check with your Corporate Security or Building Manager regarding their ﬁre and non-emergency plan with a focus on Evacuation and Assembly point.
2. If your Building Manager has not deﬁned an evacuation plan, call your local Fire Department for support.
3. If your Building Manager has not deﬁned an Assembly point, choose a point that is as far away from the building as it is tall.
4. Train your staff on evacuating including where all of the exits are - no matter which ﬂoor they are on and egress points of the building so that they know where they come out onto the street. This avoids disorientation in case of an evacuation.
5. Schedule an evacuation Drill with Corporate Security or Building Manager/Fire-Safety Director. In most cases, these drills are already scheduled.
Crisis Management Team.
If you do not have a Crisis Management Team/Process, create one and schedule/perform regular drills.
Business Continuity Planning.
If you do not have a Business Continuity Process, create one and schedule/perform bi-annual reviews or as your business changes.
- Decide on your desk-drops/hand-outs. Be sure to include those items that would be prepared for families.
- Decide on whether to purchase a notification system.
- Decide on whether to purchase a hotline number.
- Decide on whether to purchase departmental conference numbers.
- Contact your Human Resources department to determine their policies re: incidents. If you do not have any policies, create them.
- Contact the City Ofﬁce of Emergency Management regarding how to inform staff
There are many good technical ideas and projects that are now moving through the industry. In some cases their goal is to provide tools for First Responders to determine whether there are people on an impacted ﬂoor. These ideas are excellent but require additional work. The IEEE 802.11k specificatiom is now being worked on that will map RFID/Cellular identiﬁers. But the components and the level of manufacturing is still pending. Here, the staff’s security/access id and a wireless network with a device could potentially ﬁnd staff on a ﬂoor that may be impacted. With a request to gather vital statistics on the person, the First Responder could identify whether they may still be alive and then alert additional medical support.
But we must remember 2 points:
1. A good idea has a life-cycle process that includes development/testing/manufacturing and re-education of those who have to use the device/software. In order for this to really work, the building must also support the deployment of an access system that uses the RFID speciﬁcation and a wireless network that supports the 802.11k speciﬁcation. We have to be realistic about what it takes to bring these ideas to fruition.
2. According to a member of the 802.11 Committee, 802.11k is not yet available to manufacturers but may be by the end of 2008. We recommend that manufacturers communicate with the IEEE to determine the speciﬁcations in order to manifest this functionality in their ﬂoor scanning solutions. 3. There is no machine that can account for people. It still takes people to query and it still takes people to respond
The Accountability Process
Copywritten: Houtkin Consulting, Inc. 2010