Cancel briefings. If you must do briefings, do them outside. Find novel ways to pass on information. One idea is to create an email group for your teams and pass on information as you get it.
Stay plugged into your county EOC to receive the latest information. Most EOC’s distribute Situations Reports that contain pertinent information that should be shared with officers and deputies. Many communities have set up a COVID-19 information site.
If non-essential personnel are not working from home yet, do it ASAP. Develop a staffing plan that takes into consideration the virus’s incubation period. Think worst-case scenario.
Train your people on the proper use and re-use of the N95 masks. Provide training and equipment to sanitize gear and publish protocols for when and how to do it. We are going to be dealing with a shortage of PPE and sanitizing products. Encourage everyone to conserve when feasible, but not to the extent that they put their health at risk.
Instead of canceling all SWAT and CNT training, consider novel training methods to keep teams ready for tomorrow’s challenges. Online training, After Action reporting, and web-based debriefs of significant tactical events are all examples of how some teams keep their training alive.
As a leader, you need to spend time dispelling rumors. Address them directly, early, and often. If your leaders are getting overwhelmed, “lead up” when things slip through the cracks.
If you have not already segmented your building, keep officers out of the Communication’s Center. Most dispatch centers are already short-staffed. Exposing an entire shift can cripple your agency. Consider social distancing recommendations when regulating how and when people use the locker room.
Review your response plans. Has your organization developed a plan with local hospitals when, not if, the surge of infected patients begins? Consider vehicular and pedestrian controls. Are there procedures in place to respond to physical fights?
It can be challenging to find a balance between overreacting and underreacting. For example, at the start of this crisis, some agencies were rejecting the idea of reducing calls for service and opening up online reporting. Less than a week later, we see agencies across the state implementing these measures. Prepare next week’s contingency plan this week.
The topic of FTO and trainees is coming up often during this crisis. Each agency has handled this challenge in a variety of ways. Our profession is built on mitigating risk, but we can never eliminate 100% of it. Use common sense and limit exposure when possible. As an organization, consider what else you can do with a trainee as part of your contingency planning.
Communicate. This is a unique and dynamic situation. There will be a variety of questions we cannot answer. For example, questions about front-loading sick time, what to do if a family member becomes sick, and how do we file exposure claims? Reassure your officers that you will do everything you can to get answers as they become available.
Consider how you can communicate with the public from a safe distance. Leverage your UAS program. For example, one San Diego County agency is using their program to make public announcements.
Prepare for calls for service you have never heard of before. Calls like a group of ten or more gathered in the street, a local bar refuses to shut down, or that a store is price-gouging customers. Adaptive decision-making is clearly required. For example, some counties have created a price-gouging hotline, while others are sending LE to document warnings and their education efforts. There will be more atypical and weird calls to come.
Is your agency’s protest plan up to date, and does it address the challenges of COVID-19? Like many protests, the crowd will consist of non-violent protesters mixed with agitators. Does your plan also consider violent crimes against the protestors? Once the event is over, what is your plan to decontaminate personnel
Develop a consistent mechanism for routine After Action Reporting and a method for compiling the information for your Agency’s COVID-19 AAR. Consider soliciting information throughout the organization at every rank.
Develop a communication plan to share information about personnel who have tested positive. Ask for their permission to share their status consistent with agency policy and HIPPA. Sharing this information will reduce rumors and allow personnel to support one another.
How will you cope with shortages of PPE? Contact other agencies for help. Much like sharing tactical resources, the sharing of PPE resources may be needed.
Ensure everyone is aware of their jail’s updated booking process and knows how to interact with the hospitals when obtaining medical clearance for the booking process.
Like all crises, the COVID-19 crisis has pulsed, and patterns are emerging. Identify the patterns in your community and adjust your planning accordingly.