During the annual conference of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) in St. Louis, Policing Matters podcast co-host Doug Wyllie spoke with William “Bill” Harvey, chief of the Ephrata (Pa.) Police Department, to discuss some of the keys to multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplinary response to large-scale events – both planned and unplanned – to ensure citizen and first responder safety.
Have a listen or review the transcript below:
Doug Wyllie: We are here at ILEETA in St. Louis, Missouri, with Bill Harvey. One of the areas of expertise you talk about, Bill, is emergency management. I know you’ve instructed it here, and I know you’ve done a great deal of instruction back at your home agency and the surrounding area. What are some of the key points you teach about emergency management?
Bill Harvey: One of the things I look at is I’m trying to break down communication silos. Silos are great if you’re a farmer, but we do not need communication silos in emergency services. I always call us the “purple people,” because if you take the blue from police, the red from the fire and the green from EMS, we’re purple people. We should all be working together.
In reading so many after-action reports of shootings and other tragedies, the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing because – and this is not radio communications problems we’re speaking about – but prior planning. We’ve got a major event. We’ve got extra cops there. Do we have extra medical support? Does fire know that we’re there in case there’s a mass casualty?
Getting everybody on the same sheet of page in planning is crucial. As an emergency manager, one of the things I do is set up incident support plans or emergency operations plans, then push them out. So, we have the fire model, the police model and the EMS model, and everybody holistically knows what’s going on.
One thing police tend to forget about is public works. Nothing happens without logistics. It’s great to say, “We’ve had flooding. We’re going to do re-introduction to get the citizens back in.” But then everybody’s got flat tires. “Why?” Well, we need a street sweeper to come through first because of debris. “How does that happen?” You’ve got to have it in public works. Nobody has it in their police fleet. So, that is one of the things we look at.
So many businesses want to come in and work with communities. Let’s say we’re going to have a concert, or we’re going to have a downtown festival, you get the promoters and the municipalities working together and saying, “Hey, let’s just throw this thing.” I always remind folks of the three Ls:
- Is what we’re doing legal? Does it require licensing and/or street closures? What about liquor laws? What about the firework laws?
- What are the liabilities involved? Do they have insurance? Are we insured for such an event? What liabilities are there like are food trucks licensed? You’ve got to have a health code permit to bring in petting zoos. You don’t want to bring in an infected animal, whatever, to get the children sick.
- Do we have the logistics to support this? I’ve seen some places say, “We need to sell 10,000 tickets.” But you’ve only got an arena that holds 5,000 people. So, what are the logistics?
Doug Wyllie: Right.
Bill Harvey: I’m working with some houses of worship and a lot of them nowadays are renting out their churches, recreation halls or whatever, for extra income. I get that. But I ask, “Do you have the logistics to support this?” If you’re going to rent it out, you’ve got to have tables, chairs, simple things like that. But do you have systems in place to make sure safety is a priority?
So, I look at people and I say, “Consider the three Ls.” Is it legal? What are our liabilities? And do we have the logistics to support it? That usually makes people start thinking, because it gets down to who’s carrying the freight. Who’s paying for this? Yes, it’s beneficial for your city to have this nice festival and make it look like a wonderful place to live in. But whose budget is it coming out of and what’s the promoter paying for?
And so, as you bring all these people to the table, sometimes not everybody buys in or not everybody understands who’s carrying the load.
Doug Wyllie: So, this is emergency management before the emergency happens.
Bill Harvey: That’s it.
Doug Wyllie: This is the prescription for the medication that prevents a heart attack.
Bill Harvey: Correct.
Doug Wyllie: You’re creating solutions to problems that haven’t begun yet, right?
Bill Harvey: Right. A friend of mine who everybody knows, Gordon Graham …
Doug Wyllie: Oh, yeah, Gordon. If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.
Bill Harvey: And that’s it, right there. You took the words out of my mouth. Sometimes as an emergency manager, or you’re teaching emergency management, a lot of people say that your attitude is the sky is falling. No, it’s not falling. But the problem is that emergency management is in the gray. The law is in black and white. We must deal with things as they evolve.
Doug Wyllie: Yeah. Emergency management is a dynamic, rapidly unfolding event where you must basically, I don’t want to use the word improvise, because that’s an irresponsible word, but you must adapt, adjust and overcome.
Bill Harvey: The way I tell everybody is, how you have your plan set, when something goes wrong, your first 20 minutes into the response writes the script for the movie. Now, either we’re going to have a movie that’s going to come out where everybody is happy with it, or we’re going to have a horror flick. And it’s basically what I’m trying to prevent. Make sure your first 20 minutes doesn’t write a bad script of the movie.
I see a lot of mistakes made. A lot of people make a lot of assumptions. One of them is an emergency is not the place for introductions. You should’ve had your networking ahead of time. You should have relationships already built. I build it on the two-phone call principle. If I come to you and say, “Doug, we have this particular situation.” Your response is, “Let me call the guy. Okay, yeah. This is the other fella you need to call.” I don’t have time to Google. I don’t have time to go do research, read a white paper. We’ve got something evolving. So, if we don’t have an answer in two phone calls, we’re having a bad day. And the longer the clock ticks, the less flexibility you have.
It’s kind of like when we were a kid. When you had a bad report card and you didn’t get your mom and dad to sign it until Monday morning, does putting things off make it any better? No, it makes it worse. My favorite truism is this. Surprises are great on your birthday. They suck in emergency management.
And police notoriously have always said, “There’s always the guy over there that’s going to do this planning.” And, you know, every department usually has that one old guy or gal that does the planning. But when they retire, there goes the institutional knowledge.
Doug Wyllie: Yeah.
Bill Harvey: And then also, too, where is everything kept? Not on a J drive, or not on a hard drive, but it was between his ears, or in his cellphone, or in his Rolodex. So, we’ve got to train new people to be planners. We’re here at ILEETA, and you’re seeing all the weaponry systems and defensive tactics systems, and all the cool stuff. Unfortunately, planning is not exactly sexy. You’re not the most popular kid in the room. But then again, when things go right, and things fall into place, everybody says, “Thank goodness you were here.”
Doug Wyllie: Well, that’s also the occasions where there were no headlines, when nothing happened.
Bill Harvey: Right.
Doug Wyllie: I mean, it’s very difficult to be the hero, and finger quotes in the air, “being the planner,” getting all the recognition for stuff that didn’t happen, right?
Bill Harvey: Right.
Doug Wyllie: I mean, the heroes are the responders who, when something cooks off and we’re right of bang, to use the terminology from the book, then all those coppers, all those EMS guys, all those firefighters, they go in and take care of business. But the real hero is the person who prevents that stuff from happening to begin with.
Bill Harvey: Left of bang is in my presentation.
Doug Wyllie: Left of bang.
Bill Harvey: And one of the things I always say is this. If nothing bad happens, you’re good. You have a historical foundation for next year. Also, too, the insurance companies love it.
Doug Wyllie: Oh, yeah.
Bill Harvey: The underwriters of most insurance companies say, “Let’s see your plans.” And they even give preferred rates because you have planning in place. They don’t like these undesirable, unplanned events either.
The historical perspectives are there, and you build on it. You take your after-action report, or what we call the hogwash, and refine it for next year. And then next year is not as difficult, because you know what works, when it’s going to work.
Doug Wyllie: Well, you’ve got a template. You’ve got a model. You’ve got proven practices.
Bill Harvey: Correct. And, you know, one of the biggest things that I’m also, too, looking at this, is we’re doing a health and hazard evaluation. It’s a HERA. And, I’ll give you an example, like the one I must do. I produce one big one for like the Fourth of July events. And it’s only about two or three pages. It’s kind of a safety briefing, especially for volunteers. Cause I have volunteers show up to work in a crowd of thousands of people wearing flip flops because it’s summer. No, you need shoes that are comfortable and some protection.
Doug Wyllie: Shoes or boots or something.
Bill Harvey: Yeah, that’s correct. You do the hydration, SPFs. Should we have wasp stings, you know, during the summer. Wintertime you might do the chill factors and things like this. One of my students came back and told me he did an event in south Florida and he said that when he produced a HERA, because they have a lot of tourists and it’s kind of like, do not get between the alligators and the water, because that’s their safe haven. And they will come toward that. And so, he said, “I never thought I would do this, but I produced one just to say, ‘Don’t play with the alligators.’”
Doug Wyllie: Right.
Bill Harvey: Because you’ve got tourists who may think they’re cute. So, it’s safety for everybody.
Doug Wyllie: Yeah. Bill, thank you very much for all the training that you do. Not just here at ILEETA, but back in your home agency and the region that you work in. And thank you again for your time today. I appreciate it.
Bill Harvey: Oh, it’s been a pleasure. Always.
Doug Wyllie: Thank you again for clicking and thank you for listening to Policing Matters, the PoliceOne podcast.
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