Emergency Preparedness

A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Thought Leadership by Tom Henkey
Director of Emergency Management, Titan Security Group

As the American public continues to digest the news of a widespread coronavirus outbreak within the White House, it provides a stark moment of reflection for those of us who have some responsibility for a place of business or similar location.

After all, if this threat made its way into one of the most secure facilities on the planet, how can we possibly keep it outside of our walls? The answer, frankly, is that we may not always be able to meet that goal. But having the right mentality and a realistic timeframe makes our odds of success far better.

From the outset of this novel or new virus emerging in Asia, it has been clear that this will be an extended or long-term crisis. This makes complacency one of our biggest threats. We know the effective mitigation measures – frequent handwashing, not touching our faces, maintaining social distancing, wearing face coverings or masks, not gathering in large groups. But if we are to be honest with ourselves, we’d admit just how difficult it is to maintain such vigilance month after month after month.

This will truly be a marathon and not a sprint. Modern human beings simply aren’t wired for this mindset. We expect to see immediate results, instant satisfaction.

Unfortunately, pandemics don’t work that way. They are slow-rolling crises – ebbing and flowing over time as infection rates rise and fall. And the only two developments that can truly bring about a positive conclusion are an effective treatment regimen or a reliable vaccine.

A few recommendations for areas worthy of ongoing action would include:

Take the long view. Due to the nature of this hazard, we need to maintain the right mentality and the right time horizon. This will truly go a long way towards setting each of us, and our operations, up for success. Complacency is the enemy, and refreshing and updating internal messaging is vital to keeping organizations focused. Ignoring best practices for even the briefest of windows can let the virus into the most protected of facilities.

Build on what is working. When possible, avoid reinventing the wheel. If there is an existing emergency process or protocol in place which can be adapted to the resurgent threat of coronavirus, such “edits” are preferable to starting from scratch. Organizations of any size should be furiously reviewing existing emergency and continuity-of-business plans for any and all relevant processes.

Stay on top of logistics. Don’t be lulled into complacency on needed supplies. Highly sought-after products include effective cleaning supplies, disinfectants, virus tests, masks, and face shields. All organizations must review their supply chains to assure they are given priority by primary suppliers, while setting up alternative channels as backups. We have not seen the end of hoarding and widespread shortages for critical materials.

Fully leverage relationships with other sectors. Subject matter experts – including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local health departments – should continue to be relied upon for their continued subject-matter expertise. Strengthening existing relationships with partners from the public and nonprofit sectors can be vital to weathering extended crises.

Be prepared to deal with positive cases. If the beast does get inside the walls, we have to have a plan. Any team member experiencing COVID symptoms should stay home, self-isolate, and contact their doctor via phone or email. (Testing locations in Chicago: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/sites/covid-19/home/managing-your-health.html?#tab-shouldtest ) It is vital that employers then perform internal contact tracing to identify any other stakeholders that have come in contact with any confirmed case.

Be honest and direct with stakeholders. This battle will ultimately be won or lost at the local level, and addressing internal and external stakeholders with a trusted, consistent, and competent voice is absolutely invaluable during a period of crisis, including notification of positive test results (by location not name). Employees, vendors, customers, and clients need to know what is being done on their behalf, and what is coming next.

Individual lives and businesses, as well as the overall economy, still hang in the balance. This is not the time to let up, or to be lulled into thinking the challenge has passed. Instead it is the time for each of us to demonstrate decisive and innovative leadership – to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.

As always, if you “See Something, Say Something.” For life-threatening emergencies, call 911. To report suspicious activity, call 855-RPRT-2-S4 (855-777-8274).

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