Police Department Disaster Preparedness

September 05, 2017

Police Department Disaster Preparedness

by Ian D Scofield

With plenty of examples throughout history there is a noted importance in disaster preparedness for police departments and their officers.  Hurricane Harvey is only a recent emphasis on this.  Is your department’s disaster preparedness enough?  Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to have a thorough disaster plan.

Disasters Take Many Forms

Remember that disasters take various forms.  Hurricane Harvey is a form of natural disaster that has been highlighted recently but make sure that you develop plans for every kind of disaster.  Here are some examples of disasters that you should plan for.

  • Hurricanes
  • Earthquakes
  • Terrorist Attacks
  • Natural Gas Explosions
  • Flooding
  • Severe Snowstorm/Blizzard
  • Drought
  • Wildfire
  • Nuclear Powerplant Meltdown
  • Disease Outbreak

This is only a small list of all of the various disasters that could affect you and your jurisdiction.  Try to address multiple types of disasters in your planning and keep your plan flexible so that it can be adapted to incidents you haven’t planned for.

Have It Written Out

No matter what your disaster plan includes, it needs to be written out.  The written plan should highlight every aspect of responding to both manmade and natural disasters.  Every officer, detective, and other staff member should be required to read the plan.

With digital resources such as department issued cell phones and laptops, having your disaster plan stored digitally is a no-brainer.  This allows staff to access it and review it regularly.  But what happens if there is a network outage, power outage, computer virus, or other reason that you can’t use the computer.  Having multiple copies of the disaster plan at stations and city hall is a must.

Everyone Has An Assigned Duty

During a disaster, everyone can help out.  At a hospital, during a disaster, every staff member takes up a job.  Wherever possible, find ways for your staff members to help out.  There are plenty of jobs that need filling during an emergency, your officers can’t do everything.  Simple things like food preparation and setting up emergency areas are often overlooked.

Giving everyone a job also helps to ensure that officers don’t get overworked.  Working disasters are hard enough as is, no need to pile more on.

Have Supplies Ready

Supplies are a necessity during a disaster.  Disaster safe food, water, duty equipment, and other supplies are important.  Carefully consider how they are secured and where to keep them.  This can mean the difference between your department remaining functional and not being able to help those you serve.  If your department can afford it, try to have multiple supply areas.

Make sure that these supplies are regularly checked on and stocked will also help to make sure that your jurisdiction is ready for an emergency.  5 years is the typical expiration date for survival packaged water.  Other supplies should have an expiration date on them.

Work With Others

A city, town, or county isn’t just made up of a police department.  Work with other agencies and businesses that make up your jurisdiction and those nearby.  Before a disaster strikes make sure that you have already discussed, planned out, and documented how you will work with other agencies.  Often times this takes the form of memorandums of understanding.

Training and Practice

Training is probably one of the most important aspects of disaster preparedness.  The time at the police academy will give officers the basics they need to survive the street and some levels of disaster.  It won’t completely prepare them.  Selecting training requirements are important.  Here are a few things that you should consider adding to your officers’ skillsets.

  • FEMA Independent Study (IS) Classes
  • Crisis Negotiation
  • Survival Skills
  • Urban Search and Rescue
  • Human Tracking

Keep in mind that additional training and skill sets should be included in your training depending on the area that your department serves.  Take into account, location (rural, urban, large, small), environment (desert, forest, mountain), population skillset (hunters, military, scientists), and any other factor that may affect the response. 

Training isn’t enough.  Your officers won’t be able to keep their skills up if they are not practiced regularly.  Make sure that your department, along with other agencies, practice skills regularly.  From table top, to large scale exercises, there are many different ways you can keep disaster preparedness fresh in everyone’s mind.

Disaster Officer(s)

Consider assigning one or more officers (or detectives) to disaster preparedness.  This doesn’t have to be their primary job, but with extra training and time, they can help work with the department and other agencies to plan for disasters.  A specified officer will give you someone to manage your response when it is needed.  From working radios, to getting supplies out, these officers will know what is needed to help everyone survive.

Take these ideas to mind and start to prepare your department for an emergency.  Does your department already have a disaster plan?  Take the time to look over the plan and see how you can update it.  Be safe out there.



About The Author:

Ian is a staff writer at APTI and hospital security officer at a major medical center who has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice.  He has held multiple positions in the security industry from patrol supervisor to auxiliary public safety officer.  At APTI he brings his writing skills to help further the careers of others and provide quality content.  Feel free to visit his freelancing site or his creative writing site.


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