Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The storm of the century has rocked a huge section of our country and challenged public safety in ways that previously would have been thought too unbelievable for a movie script. High winds, torrential rains, record storm surges combined with winter storms and no power. Nonetheless, public safety has answered the call. Like much of the world, I’ve been following the storm stories very closely. As a result, I’m compelled to share my overwhelming admiration and respect for my public safety brethren who have answered the call.
It’s difficult to imagine a more challenging situation than what’s being faced by agencies as they deal with the tremendous trials dealt by Hurricane Sandy. Nonetheless, all of the initial indications are that public safety response has been exemplary. There’s a reason that cops are referred to as “the finest”—they routinely stand in the gap for others. Accordingly, if you’re actively involved in storm-related efforts, you’ve answered the call and we’re all proud of you. For those who aren’t actively engaged in storm efforts, look for an opportunity (social media, phone calls, email, etc.) to contact these committed responders and tell them how proud this country is of their efforts. And a request for everyone: Keep these folks in your prayers. They have a long hard road ahead.
This type of national disaster evolves over a prolonged period of time and goes through various stages. Like any crisis, priorities have to be set and resources have to be managed. The most valuable resource, our people, must be used judiciously and supported absolutely. Every one of them has their own life that they have stepped away from in order to serve and, over the course of next several days, extended shifts and unreasonable expectations from otherwise well-meaning citizens will quickly take their toll.
Watch for burnout, lend support and encouragement whenever possible. Tell them how important they are and how much their community and fellow employees need them. When you have someone who’s on the edge of their own crisis because of family emergencies, find a way to support them. This is a time for structured flexibility. I know that sounds contradictory but challenging times call for people who can make prudent decisions with a big picture perspective. Thinking long term is imperative and the challenge of this storm will soon be something that we’re looking back on instead of living through. This means we have to keep basic operational capabilities in place. Get your leaders together, including some of the informal ones, and ask for open discussion of potential weak links in operational capability. To the degree you can, shore them up before they break. Think creatively and collaboratively. This isn’t a time for territorialism.
As the next several days unfold, invoke W.I.N.—What’s Important Now? W.I.N. is a powerful decision-making tool that will keep you focused on the priorities and minimize the chance of distraction. Smart supervisors will be thinking W.I.N. 2—What’s Important Next? Keep re-evaluating what you know and what the new information means. Priorities can change and you need to be flexible.
Finally, my heart goes out to everyone who has suffered loss as a result of this epic storm. Remember: You’ll get through this and there are people who care.