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Correctional Disaster Planning: Are You Ready? Part II
By Bruce Kovach, Federal Bureau of Prisons Mission Analyst
Published: 11/04/2013

Emergency plan In Part 1, I discussed the importance of having a contingency plan in the event of a wide spread disaster affecting the correctional facility and surrounding area. In Part 2, I will talk about a number of areas a disaster contingency plan need to cover. My recommendations are not all inclusive and should be viewed as idea provoking for bolstering a plan already in place or as information for plans in the process of being created.

First, let me recommend the use of NIMS/ICS. This is a tested and very effective system of managing any type of incident large or small. Information regarding NIMS/ICS can be found on the FEMA web site and emergency management information can be obtained from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), which also has an easy to navigate and helpful web site. Let me also recommend that having a positive relationship with the local and State Emergency Management Agencies (EMA) will be highly beneficial.

When developing a disaster response plan the plan should consider the fact that the disaster will most likely affect the surrounding communities and may extend hundreds of miles in all directions. Therefore, plan builders should consider the facility may need to be self-reliant from the initial onset to several hours or to several days into the event. The disaster plan should include some type of Shelter in Place (SIP) plan. The information regarding this procedure should be readily available, possibly in staff/officer Post Orders/Post Instructions and portions available to the inmate population. Good information prevents panic and fosters cooperation. If the SIP plan references materials the locations of those materials are to be listed in the plan. Other elements of the SIP plan are pre (if time permits) and post event inmate and staff accountability along with a recovery plan.

The disaster plan needs to address pre and post event evacuation. When drafting the evacuation plan there are items to be considered, such as who is going to provide the transportation vehicles, are they readily available, and is it reliable, do they meet your security needs. If these are civilian vehicles can you improvise inmate security? Do you have sufficient restraints? Is there established destinations? Does staff know primary and secondary routes? Do you address mechanical failure? Do you have special needs inmates or protective custody issues? Can you secure your now evacuated facility? Again, many of these issues can be worked out in the preplanning phase reducing confusion when the time comes to evacuate.

A plan to address humanitarian requirements will need to be built. Should administration choose to SIP this becomes even more significant. In the event the tap water is confirmed or thought to be contaminated, the domestic water source must be turned off and a source of potable water secured, controlled and rationed if necessary. Food will be a large concern. The director of the food service division must know the available stores supply and the length of time it will last. This too may require some type of rationing. Remember we are dependent on the vendors who also provide supplies to the community and rely on unobstructed roadways to transport the goods to where there they are needed. Refrigeration my pose a problem if it relies solely on the main electrical supply and spoilage may need addressed during the recovery phase. Along with food and water the issue of sanitation, specifically sewage, is a need to be planned for. If there is a failure in the domestic water supply or a pump station failure, the disposal of sewage will require your attention. On the subject of sanitation should the community or region be adversely affected trash will be an issue and if not a section of your preplan it remains an issue to be considered. Bedding may be something requiring attention. This is especially true if you elect to evacuate your facility, will the receiving agency have an adequate supply? This issue also surfaces if your institution is required to absorb inmates from another facility. The health service provider will be required to provide the inmate population with medical attention and medication no matter whether the SIP or evacuation plan is activated. An additional issue to plan for is securing medications left behind during an evacuation and if these medication are contaminated a disposal method will need to be addressed in the recovery phase. Staff may be required to stay on duty for extended periods of time and will require food, water, medical attention, bedding and etc..

Now that those barriers have been crossed does the facility house special needs inmates such as; mental health inmates, geriatrics, paraplegics, inmates with specific medical needs, or have obstetrical needs. Any disaster plan will have to specifically address these needs.

Any time an inmate is moved outside the secure confines of the institution it presents a risk. Now that a mass evacuation is being considered this isn’t the time to be wondering about security. Does the facility have sufficient restraints to make an evacuation possible? Does the institution have a method for improvising transport vehicle security such as gang chains, escort vehicles, less-lethal weapons? Remember, airborne irritants, chemical aerosols, and OC, although an effective tool, will present several problems if used during transport. This is especially true if civilian vehicles are pressed into service. More discriminate impact weapons may be a better choice with a secondary lethal component in place.

Moving inmates to another location presents other issues which are more easily dealt with when addressed in the preplanning. Records. Records need to be accessible, an inmate’s status is always fluid. Just because you are in the midst of a disaster doesn’t mean an inmate’s sentence stops. At some point, you may have to deal with an inmate who is scheduled for release. You don’t need to be responding to an unlawful detention allegation at a time like this. Additionally, there is a need for inmate and staff accountability the district (regional) and headquarters (central office) need to know their location for obvious reasons.

Communications play an important role in corrections. Many of the current radio systems utilize a repeater or a trunking system. Will your radios function if the base equipment or remote antenna is no longer serviceable? Do your radios have a talk-around or radio-to-radio function? The preplans are the place to address this issue. Also, is there an alternative to the use of the hard line telephone system should there be an infrastructure failure?

An alternative electrical supply is a necessary part of the correctional environment. A correctional facility must have an alternative power supply. Interruption of the domestic electrical grid is a daily possibility and a reliable supply of emergency generator fuel is a must along with a knowledge of gallon per hour usage. Also, is there sufficient fuel on hand for the transport and escort vehicles? This is an item on which a large portion of the preplans are based and should be monitored daily by the chief of plant operations (facility manager). Some disasters are spontaneous while others, such as hurricanes, do give some advanced notice.

Facility security is a concern of varying proportions depending on the location of the facility. If the facility is located in an urban setting looting may present more of a possibility than a facility located in a rural area. No matter where the facility is located an evacuated facility will, at some point, require security. Additionally, in the recovery phase the security devices will require checking for serviceability and dependability.

In summary; a functional, realistic disaster plan is a life and cost saving endeavor. In my article I touched on many items and left many more unaddressed. A good preplan is not the responsibility of a single person, division or agency. It must be a collaboration of all levels of a correctional system from all branches and divisions. Disaster planning is not a one time, over and done with, project. It must be ever evolving. When the plan is tested, whether at a tabletop exercise or during a large scale mock emergency, a meaningful post drill analysis must be conducted with the findings immediately incorporated into the plans.

Bruce Kovach is a Federal Bureau of Prisons Mission Analyst assigned to the ESF #13 National Coordination Center. Kovach has 26 years correctional experience. For additional information Kovach can be contacted via e-mail at Bruce.Kovach@atf.gov .

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