In short, the best made plans are only as good as they are exercised in advance of an emergency. I have known people and organizations that have written beautiful plans for every situation that they could possibly think of. I will also admit that they often looked very pretty in their matching binders displayed on a new bookcase. I have to commend the effort, however, all the pretty books of well written plans do not mean that you are prepared to respond or operate during and after an emergency. I think we have seen that knowing what is in those plans and performing under less than ideal situations is the real proof of our preparedness. We have all seen this, and know what it is like when plans do not perform under less than ideal situations. This is the proof of preparedness.
On June 17, 2009, under the control of DHS, all government agencies exercised their Continuity of Operations plans (COOP), and I have to admit I miss those days of preparing for the worse. Testing yourself to see if your plans were successful, watching your alternate facilities actually came on line and never skipping a beat, so that the nation and government are without your service.
We live in a new world- where a trip around the world is measured in hours and not months. We now have enemies that in the not-too-distant past were no real threat simply because they could not get to us. Even if DHS, DOJ and all the cops in the country had all the money and equipment they needed with the mission of making us 100% secure, it would still be impossible. Nevermind the fact that this is something we wouldn’t really want because we as a nation truly enjoy our freedoms. The attempt at total security would slow, reduce and in many ways stop some of the freedoms that we take for granted. Thus DHS and the government is charged with striking a delicate balance. Be as secure as we can be but without reducing the freedoms that this nation was founded upon.
To this point, our government cannot put a “closed” sign on the door when things do go bump in the night. The people and the plans must be prepared to respond and able to continue their operations. To ensure that, bright people write great plans, and despite already heavy workloads, managers shift gears for a period of time and practice those plans because when things do go bump, there is no time to find that page in the plan on the bookcase and do what it says. This is a situation where you have to know what to do and not even have to think about – the same way we tie our shoes everyday. Not knowing what to do can cause harm to our nation’s way of life, and even death. We have seen this happen and we cannot let it happen again.
So as a concerned citizen, and no longer the guy that has to know the plan, I thank the men and women of DHS, and every agency that spent the time ensuring that our way of life would not change the when things go bump in the night.
I must also say that in my new life after federal service, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of companies that are taking planning and exercises to heart so they are prepared the next time a problem strikes home. I have enjoyed helping them because although this effort does not generate profits up front, it will when disaster hits again. One company has taken it so seriously that based on their level of preparedness, they have actually drastically reduced their insurance costs. I cannot commend them enough because they are so prepared they will not be expecting Uncle Sam to come to their rescue, they will be knocking on Uncle Sam’s door and saying how can we help.