It’s a funny thing. As late as December, some of my clients’ employees were still snarky about their emergency plans. Questioning why we need to plan for active shooters and how ridiculous pandemics are. Citing that SARS, Swine and other illnesses never truly made it to us. Making jokes about aliens swooping us up.
Now that the world understands, first hand, that it’s not a matter of “if” but “when”, I hear those all too familiar words – “you were right, I should have listened.” Trust me I don’t get any pleasure or satisfaction from this. I would much rather be in the planning stage than the Humpty dumpty stage of putting all the pieces together again. And that leads me to the next issue that you and your agencies will need to start planning for – Phase 3 Recovery.
We are in Phase 2
We are currently in Phase 2 dealing with the actual event. As a Nation, we are doing okay. Mistakes have been made, but generally, we are surviving quite well. The agencies that did Phase 1 (planning) well, are now also breezing this stage. But that’s not what I want to address here today. Today, I want to go beyond. Much further beyond.
Phase 3 – Recovery and Continuity
The real question is what comes after Coronavirus? The answer is “getting back to work.” For the world of public agencies, this will be difficult. The United States has been 12 feet from the leading edge of radical change for years now. The depression, the homelessness crisis, racism and the highest level of politics have been pushing us closer to that edge inch by inch.
Now that the United States is in full-blown pandemic mode, we are starting to see the deleterious effects of the pandemic. Health issues aside, companies are laying off employees, asking for salary cuts, and sabbaticals. The stock market is tanking, retirement accounts are plummeting and gun sales are rising. Just about every industry is feeling the ramifications of poor planning. Those living paycheck to paycheck is being hit the hardest the fastest. Moratoriums on evictions are in place, putting building owners under more pressure. The question becomes…are you seeing the signs?
What happens next
What happens next? is the question that every public agency and their Emergency Operations Centers should be asking themselves. The obvious answer is Recovery. But the deeper question is How? How will you start business continuity operations and recover?
While the pandemic most likely will not take down your software systems or building structures, getting back to work and back to normal won’t be that easy. During the crash and depression around in the late 2000s, I watched agencies cut M&O and Public Works departments. The maintenance of buildings and infrastructure started to dilapidate quickly. Rehabbing maintenance is not easy. It requires three times as much work than simply maintaining the work.
Other challenges will face us too. Depending on how long this pandemic extends, more and more people will most likely be out of work and unable to pay their bills. Companies will fold. And that means that we will also most likely see more and more homelessness. Which means more trash, disease and human waste on our agencies’ streets.
We are also going to see more theft, angry citizens, vacant properties, reduction in sales tax earnings, TOT earnings, and the like. With the rise of #boogaloo2020, we are also likely to see more intense politics, riots, marches, and backlash. The signs are there. And just as I started this piece, it’s not a matter of if, but when.
While you are in the fortunate position to have your EOC’s activated, start the recovery planning phase now. What training do you need to get people up to speed on? How will you secure your properties? How will you secure your voting public? How will you provide services? How will you deal with revenue loss? How will you ensure the safety and health of your Agency?
Don’t wait to start asking these questions. Develop your plans now. Dig deep. Create the scenario-based decision tree and make sure you start training your staff now.