Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ERM-BC-COOP: Who you gon'na call?


I received an email from an acquaintance via the International Emergency Managers Association (IAEM) list the other day.

It was disturbing in several ways.

The email went as follows:

IAEM Discussion Group:

In this morning’s electronic issue of Federal Insider, I received an article that makes me want to pose the question: –

Suppose you report something suspicious or an actual emergency to your 911, your State Homeland Security Office, to several of DHS’ or the FBI’s hotlines and get referred to a number that doesn’t answer?

Link to the article: or

Here are some numbers for suspicious activity or criminal activity reporting:

  1. Any Emergency or Incident in Progress – 911

  2. If terror activity suspected - Local FBI Office: (contains a list of Offices, their sites and contact info). You can also report activity online, if you are near a computer or have a cell phone with a QWERTY keyboard at:

  3. Immigration/Customs Hotline: 1-866-347-2423

  4. To Report an Oil/Chemical Release – The National Response Center: 1-800-424-8802 or 1-877-24-WATCH
    PS: They also take terrorism reports.

  5. Suspicious Activity/Packages in or around a Federal Building: 1-877-4FPS-411 (1-877-437-7411).

  6. Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Violation / Activity: 1-877 394-4347 (if incident has already occurred, 202-282-9201 (the National Infrastructure Coordination Center))

  7. Cybersecurity Incident: 1-888-282-0870 or

  8. Major Terror or Criminal Incident (FBI): Major Case Contact Center at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324);

  9. Disaster Relief Fraud: (866) 720-5721

  10. Lost or Missing Child: 1-800-THE-LOST

  11. Sexual Exploitation: 1-800-843-5678

The Washington Post story related an incident where someone repeatedly tried, and generally failed, to report a suspect suitcase.

What is the ERM-BC-COOP connection?

As practitioners we need to know that when we recommend that people call a central number to report a fire, medical alert, or other event, that the call will be answered by a live person who knows how to respond (e.g., call the fire department, medical assistance).

Most often, the phones are manned either by a front desk receptionist , a lobby guard, or security in an out-of-the-way office. Sometimes HR gets the duty.

WHO gets the call is not particularly critical.

What IS critical is that the phone is answered and the person taking the call knows how to handle it.

By extension, this means that there must be procedures in place to assure the phone always is answered - if someone takes a break for whatever reason, someone else must fill in.

It means that when the plan is exercised, making sure the phone is answered must be included in the script.

Maybe Federal phones can go unanswered - they should not, but according to the WashPost article they sometimes are "Ring - No Answer" - but unless the practitioner is developing a plan for a Federal agency, our concern is much more local - will the phone be answered if something happens in our facility or on our campus.

If our plan is for a tenant, we need to understand who is responsible for contacting external resources (police, fire, paramedics, etc.); if the responsibility falls on the host, then the host must be included in the exercise; the host is, after all, a vendor.

Maybe the Feds can brush off the incident, but we should learn from it and make certain it doesn't happen to us or our clients.

John Glenn
JohnGlennMBCI at gmail dot com
Hollywood - Fort Lauderdale Florida

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