Team Norfolk derived from the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requirement to maintain a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). It has since flourished into an effectively coordinated whole-community approach – public, private, not-for-profit, higher education and military – ensuring unity of effort in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from any hazard. The City’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response serves as primus inter pares (first among equals).
To build a truly resilient community with an effective response capability, mission number one is to build and foster critical relationships. As the maxim goes, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Put differently, if the talents and capabilities of the entire community are to be brought to bear during a disaster in a coordinated manner, relationships must be established well beforehand. This lesson was highlighted in the Post-Katrina report “Getting Down to Business” by the Business Executives for National Security (BENS). While fostering these relationships, the group meets monthly to work through plans and otherwise discuss issues, train and exercise together. It is an opportunity for cross-sector collaboration, information sharing, and improved situational awareness. Meetings consist of discussions about roles and responsibilities, resources and capabilities, gaps, concerns, and realistic expectations. Participants also share any planning initiatives underway.
Furthermore, beyond the monthly LEPC meetings sub-groups categorized by Emergency Support Functions (ESF) are also facilitated as needed. Emergency Support Functions are the organizational categories used in the National Response Framework as well as the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan. They are used to bring together agencies and organizations with similar missions, regardless of their sector or level of government. For example, Team Norfolk ESF-6, “Mass Care, Housing and Human Services” encompasses approximately 20+ agencies, all of whom meet to discuss issues such as sheltering (both civilian and military dependents), accommodating access and functional needs, and effectively leveraging various and limited resources to meet the human needs throughout an incident.
Other than time, there is no cost in implementing this Team approach; in fact, it is this type of Team building and sharing of resources which is absolutely critical to leverage and otherwise maximize limited resources and mitigate duplication within response and recovery operations. This cross-sector planning and collaboration has proven invaluable while responding to an incident.