HAP Blog

Managing Incidents: Who’s Who in the Zoo?

September 13, 2022

When it comes to emergency management (EM), how are you staying organized?

There are so many different agencies, contractors, state and federal partners, and others who play a large role within the EM world. Understanding who you can help and where you can turn for assistance are key aspects of emergency management, but first you have to know all the key players.

Who are all these folks?  Who’s who in the zoo?  It’s a common phrase that’s been used for years by people working in the field. Does your rolodex include representatives at the city, state, local, and federal levels? Sometimes, our challenges are global—think the COVID-19 supply chain crisis—and will require an even broader response.

Here’s a look at the complex network of people that are part of managing emergencies and how you can keep it all straight.

Local, regional, and beyond

All incidents start local.

What does that mean? If your facility loses power or you’re in need of a critical supply, it’s up to you to solve the issue. If you have a generator, and it’s supplying adequate power and there’s little to no disruption in the delivery of care, the issue has been managed. If the generator fails and there is a disruption in care, what’s your plan? How can you fix the generator and when will power be restored? It’s your issue to start solving.

The scope of your emergency grows when a larger region or county is affected. When an emergency moves beyond your facility, you may need to work with representatives from nearby municipalities, cities, and counties. A blizzard resulting in 2.5 feet of snow in Erie County may require a coordinated response from adjacent cities and counties, but may not require a state-wide response. As you begin your emergency response, identify who is affected by the problems in front of you.

A culture of coordination

Even if they are not involved directly, state and county EM officials are very interested and concerned about your emergencies. After all, we all must be experts in situational awareness. Something that might start off as a local incident may escalate into something much larger.

Sharing information is a core principle in the EM world. Participating in a regional health care coalition (HCC) is one way to build relationships across your network. These groups have individuals, equipment, and supplies that may help you work through an emergency. Keep your partners in the know, and they may be able to help you during a time of crisis—and vice versa.

State and federal resources

Let’s say your event has escalated to the point where the probability of solving it at the local level isn’t likely. That means local, county, mutual aid, and private entities won’t fully address the scope of your crisis.

It may be time to assess the available state and federal assets that could help. Solid working relationships with your local and county emergency management coordinators can often point you in the right direction. If your emergency goes beyond the state level, support from the federal government might be requested, and agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may need to be involved.

As your emergency moves beyond your local network, it can be challenging to gauge the speed of the response. It’s important to know that both state and federal resources can take hours or days to arrive. Still, these agencies draw from a wider range of resources and support that can help you during an emergency.

Final Words

We know there are countless agencies and external partners that play a role in emergency management.

Your city, municipality, or town may have an emergency management specialist, coordinator, or manager that organizes activities for those specific regions. From there, it only grows. Counties have personnel and a process in place. So do the state and federal governments.

It’s our job to keep track of everyone who needs a seat at a table and who can help during the unexpected. Keeping track of “who’s who in the zoo” might be challenging, but you’ll be glad you did when an emergency arrives.

For questions or additional insights, contact meor another member of HAP’s emergency management team.


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