Critical Decisions, Critical Actions

“Ongoing training and practice will ensure competency,” said Bill Badzmierowski.

Despite security tools and resources, the success of any crisis response often hinges on critical decisions made and actions taken by security personnel first arriving on the scene.
Organizational policies and procedures provide necessary structure to a good response. Officers first on the scene take significant steps before advanced help arrives. Policies should include a simple protocol that places a generalized template over any response. Protocols should be clear and simple so that officers can quickly invoke them upon learning of the incident. And, security staff should be trained to use them in a variety of emergency scenarios.  

Several elements should be built into these protocols:

•    Stay calm and make a plan.

Take a deep breath and bring these simple protocols to mind. This is arguably the most important step in any response. Without training and practice, it is a challenging step to accomplish. Complex and horrific crises surprise us, and remaining calm may be the last thought that comes to mind. Keeping a level head in emergencies involves more skill than talent. Personality and temperament certainly play a role, but confidence and skills can be gained through training, practice, rehearsals, drills and more training.

•    Attend to any immediate safety concerns.

Remember to respect the boundaries of your training, relevant legislation and organizational policies and procedures. Any steps you take will be evaluated against all three concerns.

•    Designate a team leader.

The role of the team leader is critical. Someone needs to direct other team members, and this needs to happen quickly and efficiently. Policies and procedures should clearly define response roles in advance for all team members. Keep in mind that the nature of crisis is chaotic and disorganized. A crisis does not conform itself to the boundaries of our manuals. Supervisory staff may ultimately hold responsibility for immediate decisions and actions, but they should be empowered to delegate the team leader role as they see fit in any emergency. There are many elements to analyze in those precious planning seconds.

Team leader responsibilities:
  • Direct the immediate response, ensuring the highest level of safety for everyone immediately involved.
  • Evaluate immediate needs.
  • Summon more advanced help if dictated by the situation.
  • Delegate tasks and responsibilities to other responders.
  • Initiate any specialized policies, procedures or protocols.
  • Serve as the primary communication link for anyone internal or external to the response.
  • Coordinate any other immediate interventions.
  • Keep a log of ongoing decisions and actions.
  • Maintain this role until more advanced help arrives and assumes responsibility.
  • Transition to the incident commander when assuming leadership of the response.

Team member responsibilities:
  • Support the team leader and other team members.
  • Assist the injured.
  • Keep a log of ongoing decisions and actions.
  • Continuously monitor safety. The scene could change quickly and priorities and protocols may shift.
  • Restrict access to the scene. Reporters and other interested parties may be persistent about gaining access.
  • Support the emotional welfare of other team members.

Follow up – Both the organization and individual team members will benefit by discussing their experience once their roles in the response have been fulfilled. Once team members have individually completed their documentation, a follow-up meeting will help to evaluate the response to learn from the process. A meeting should take place to assess the physical and emotional welfare, evaluate the response and determine further follow-up steps.

Keeping these simple concepts in mind will help security executives and officers in managing any crisis. Ongoing training and practice will ensure competency and retention. Organizational policies and procedures provide direction to responders during a crisis.

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