As an anxious nation has watched the unprecedented flood waters of Hurricane Florence soak the Carolinas, emergency managers throughout the mid-Atlantic and U.S. have been working nonstop to respond to the ever-changing and dangerous conditions. That includes deploying people, equipment, and supplies into affected areas; rerouting supply chains to keep essential materials in the hands of those who need them; assembling different threads of information to come up with a comprehensive picture of what’s happening; briefing their respective leaders, media and public on what they know (and what they don’t know); and planning their next steps in response and recovery operations.
While it’s hard to describe everything an emergency manager does and is responsible for, I think it is fair to say that they are the most unique and ultimate of multitaskers. They are the orchestra conductors of a constant flow of instruments – all with varying levels of skills and capacities and that are always coming and going at different times during a response. In short, they have to make it all work!
That’s a hard order for anyone to do in the most ideal of circumstances but when waters are rising; fires are burning; power, transportation and infrastructure are not usable; and dysfunction abounds, it takes a very special person to get you through the bad days to better ones.
One of the country’s best emergency managers is Walmart Senior Director for Emergency Management Jason Jackson. Based out of the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., Jason and his team are connected to each and every Walmart facility around the world working around the clock to safeguard the company’s people, resources and operations from any number of risks and unfolding disasters.
HSToday Editor at Large Rich Cooper spoke with Jackson during their Hurricane Florence response activities and asked him: “How should we measure preparedness?”
Jason Jackson: “First and foremost, measuring preparedness levels is critical to understanding whether or not we are improving in our efforts. However, ‘preparedness’ is often a vague term that people have trouble wrapping their minds around, therefore making it hard to measure at scale.
I think the process starts with definition. WHAT do we mean by preparedness? Followed by, WHO do we mean when we are talking ‘prepared’? An overall measurement will undoubtedly require several sub-metrics to help get us there in a logical manner.
The WHO becomes important because individual family preparedness is different than business preparedness, is different than local government preparedness and so on. Breaking it down into segments allows us apply norms to each group that can then be more directly measured and then rolled up into a master metric.
As an example, binary questions for a family could be, ‘Do you have an emergency plan for your family? Yes/No’; ‘Do you have an emergency fund of $500 or greater? Yes/No; etc.’
While we’ll learn a ton from the data, figuring out how to measure is just the first part of the battle. HOW we execute is equally, if not more, important.”