Preparedness in the Face of Adversity
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Preparedness in the Face of Adversity

By Jason Marks, Director of Emergency Management and Preparedness, Peoria County

Jason Marks, Director of Emergency Management and Preparedness, Peoria County

There is an utmost need for a national effort in ensuring a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against any emergencies. Emergencies could result from unintentional or man-made events, either domestic or international terrorism. At Peoria County, we encourage citizens to participate in preparedness activities so they can respond to emergencies and disasters. Today, more than ever, many of the community partners we are collaborating with place a greater emphasis on participating and engaging with disaster preparedness type activities. A good example is our collaboration with the City of Peoria and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency in a Complex Coordinated Terrorism Attack Project to include the necessary trainings and multiple table-top and functional exercises with the capstone being a full-scale exercise by August of 2021.

While working with individuals within our community, we discovered that most of them had minimal knowledge about emergency management’s role in a community prior to or during an incident. We have put an emphasis on the role of emergency management in the community and the establishment of an Emergency Operation Center (EOC). We educate community partners on the technologies and programs that could benefit us in the coordination and management of incidents inside the EOC. The understanding of emergency management’s role in coordinating response to incidents and events has been a learning curve for many individuals.

"The critical requisite, however, in the whole emergency management world in the homeland security arena, is building relationships to sustain or pull through in the wake of adversity"

Recently, we have developed a Strategic Plan for our County emergency management program. We reached out to our elected officials as well as administrative personnel in Peoria County and the City of Peoria encouraging them to participate in the development of this program, be on-board, endorse to others, and engage with the identified goals. We hope their engagement assists in garnering the required funds to develop the EOC and ensure that it is equipped with the right equipment.

Ahead of the Technology Curve

As technology continues to advance, emergency management needs to embrace and keep abreast of these advancements. More importantly, every individual with a role in the response need to ensure they are trained on the various technologies being utilized. We need to progress alongside the rapid evolution of technology to garner its benefits in managing incidents efficiently. In Peoria County we have recently started to utilize the SharePoint platform and other cloud-based systems for our county preparedness activities, and we are training individuals to use these systems effectively.

As a manager, it is my responsibility to encourage my colleagues to keep using these systems and become proficient with them. To encourage my colleagues, use of these systems on a frequent basis a monthly drill was introduced on one of the cloud-based systems with a cue, “Hey, this is a system that you need to utilize to be proficient.” This drill has forced staff to log onto the system and utilize it regularly. Additionally, we have begun to use these systems for reporting situational awareness. By storing the situational reports on these systems as opposed to an email blast or phone call to everyone, users can log onto the system and keep track of what’s happening at a time convenient to them.

Fostering Collaborative Relationships

In the public sector world, we need to make every effort to ensure that we’re utilizing the tax payer’s money effectively and in the best possible way. To do that, we need to choose the best solution or technology at the most efficient price. The solution must be intuitive and user-friendly with the minimal training period so that the technology adoption and utilization are at its fullest. Furthermore, in emergency management, having the ability to use thee cloud-based systems via the internet from any location whenever an incident occurs is very beneficial.

The critical requisite, however, in the whole emergency management world in the homeland security arena, is building relationships to sustain or pull through in the wake of adversity. We need to develop not just a work-type relationship but a personal relationship with all the various stakeholders and agencies that we are collaborating with to successfully implement emergency management strategies. We tend to spend a lot of time with individuals during incidents, so with a good relationship, trust, and understanding, we can work through the incident, find common ground, and ensure that the response is effective. My deep-rooted belief is that strengthening the relationships built across the emergency management ecosystem will collectively enhance our response as a community in the face of adversity.

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