Preparedness both within the fleet shop and workers’ homes comes a long way when disasters — natural or manmade — occur, throwing all into disorder. During his presentation at the NAFA Expo and Institute in Tampa, Fla., in April, James Korotki, fleet operations supervisor for New York Police Department fleet services, laid out the case for preparedness to increase and improve response while ultimately aiding recovery efforts, particularly using the lens of New York’s experience during Hurricane Sandy.
“(Preparation) is probably the most important part in the event of an emergency,” Korotki said. “What can you do during the event? The easy answer there is not much — basically, hold on, go for the ride and see where it takes you.”
For this reason, he advised fleet managers to support workers in putting their homes in order in the event of a disaster while also taking that level of preparation and applying it to the shop itself.
Taking care of the home front
“This is what we do: We leave our homes, we abandon our loved ones. I remember at 3 o’ clock in the morning I received a phone call telling me to come to work: Supervisor didn’t show up, you’re next on the list — come on in,” Korotki said, noting this is in contrast to the average citizen’s reaction to emergency, which is to safeguard their home or evacuate. “Where everyone else is trained to move away. Firefighters to the flames. Policemen to the bullets … Essentially, we (fleet professionals) move toward the emergency as well. We go to our fixed posts. And the whole time we all worry about our family, our loved ones and even our pets.”
Despite this increased worry and stress, fleet workers still need to perform at a high level. The key to reducing this concern and improving focus on the tasks at hand, according to Korotki, is to be prepared at home. Equip your home with auxiliary power systems and calculate fuel use for the generator by estimating the length of use.
“I’ve been accused of being somewhat of a doomsday planner. I have four different generators,” Korotki said. “I have about 24 gallons of fuel tucked away in a little Rubbermaid shed. Extra propane — again I’m a little nutty — I have four cans at home.”
Th ere are other considerations besides fuel, including medicine and medical supplies. Families should ensure there is enough medicine and have a plans in place for relatives with oxygen tanks, or those who are bedridden particularly if flooding is a concern. An examination of surroundings is another must. If a storm is coming, tuck away things like outdoor furniture, which could become a hazard. Finally, complete drills and practice runs at home.
“My wife can backfeed my house with my generator. She is prepared — she knows how to do it, she has done it. We’ve gone through drills; she knows what to turn off , what to turn on,” he said.
Additionally, have contingency plans that cover a variety of scenarios, including if the generators fail. “You need to plan these things now. If you did, you are going to succeed at work,” he said. “Identify the risks long before the emergency takes place. It’s the only way, you will be capable of succeeding in the workplace. It makes it so much easier that you can focus and perform at the level you have to if you’re not worried about everything else.”
Mario Guzman, general services manager for the city of West Palm Beach, Fla., who helped present the session, added, “Make sure you also bring (these plans) to your staff. You can’t do this alone … Make sure they are following the same functions as well to make sure they are prepared. When the storm hits, it’s going to be essential personnel.”
Bringing preparedness to the shop
The same foresight should also be integrated into the shop as well. This includes an evaluation of your shop’s surroundings and righting any problematic situations by removing debris, trimming and prune hazardous branches, fortifying areas with sandbags, relocating equipment to more secure locations or elevating it off the floor, etc. Additionally, make sure all the right personal protection equipment — raincoats bomb suits, etc. — are available; it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find some items during an event.
Examining data and holding focus group talks with everyone involved in past events will prove invaluable as will tabletop exercises. Additionally, identify in-person the right equipment is available and you have members trained to use it.
“Who you train — you need to be able to find them,” Korotki said. “And usually what happens with us (NYPD fleet services) is the guy who knew or knows all those people who trained leaves, and he leaves nothing behind for you to work with. So now you don’t even know who operates (certain vehicles) and who is qualified. So what we do is have a database of certifications and individual skill sets that people have the ability to enter in, and we use it and try to locate those people and know where they are.”
He added, “You want to have files like this in a common folder where people can find them.”
Most importantly, establish a playbook, one that encompasses everything your area has going on, from hurricanes, flooding and earthquakes to wildfires. Korotki noted their playbook shows all of their flood prone areas and outlines alternative locations to go. Playbooks should also share who has access to what, where authority lies, personnel staffing levels, who goes where and does what, security protocols that go into place, among other things.
Possible playbooks include a transportation playbook, which could detail how a city gets its workers into the shop; tow truck playbook; mobilization playbook; and fuel playbook to ensure availability while laying out inter-agency cooperation.
“Where else are you going to find that? How do you figure that out two days before something goes wrong?” Korotki asked. “You need to do it now. Figure it out now and do it.”
Update them early and often, he said, noting he updates NYPD fleet service’s playbook on an annual basis. “You would not believe the amount of change — the amount of people we’ve hired, the (number) promoted, phone numbers are wrong, (we’re) not running that shop anymore.”
Guzman added the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Incident Management System, or NIMS, is a good resource to help formulate playbooks; it also decreases the odds of something vital being forgotten. As Korotki and Guzman said, it is easier to add specific sections for your locality onto an already existing checklist than starting fresh.
Korotki also stressed fleet managers need to regularly perform site maintenance of fueling sites and have security plans in place since fuel can be a valuable commodity during disasters.
“During Sandy, no one had fuel. We were giving fuel to the National Guard,” Korotki said. He noted with scarcity also comes hard decisions. “Who decides who gets (the fuel)? Well, maybe parks. Parks department doesn’t sound like that’s high priority, but what if they need to use forestry equipment to get the roads clear — now they are important. You need to have that stuff laid out — who makes those decisions? You come back to that command hierarchy.”
Post-event, a fleet manager’s goal transitions to returning the fleet to its pre-event status, if not better; this includes identifying and repairing damaged vehicles, leasing or renting temporary vehicles in an emergency situation — something that should be outlined in the playbook — and requesting expedited build dates on existing or new orders. However, fleet managers both during and post-event need to remember to document everything for FEMA.
“First thing my buddy told me — he said, ‘Document, document and then document some more,’” Korotki said. “You need a code set up that will identify anything that is related to an emergency. You need that now.”
Korotki noted the NYPD fleet services calculated an utilization report electronically of all that was used to support its FEMA efforts, and while FEMA loved the data, its response was prove it. “Who was driving that car? What was his name? They made us get logbooks at precincts (that are used to sign out) and we had to get all this data and paper and compile it to give it to FEMA.” He added, “You have to have a method of tracking all that. Something that is across the board the same.”
“Everyone wants to be boots on the ground clearing trees, but you’ve got to have someone dedicated to documentation,” Guzman said.
Korotki agreed, “(You need) oversight to make sure it is all being done properly. This is a problem we ran into. The first-line supervisors they know their goal — their mission is to get cars out on the street. They don’t care (if it needs the emergency code). You need to get them to stop and use those emergency codes.”
He also noted the importance of properly classifying vehicles. FEMA will pay different rates for different types vehicles. Additionally, FEMA will reimburse for vehicles that couldn’t be salvaged, giving money for the time and costs that were a part of efforts to try saving them. A third-party consultant guided the NYPD fleet services through the FEMA process and, according to Korotki, proved invaluable.
Fleet services are a vital component in disaster operations and recovery efforts, making prepping for the worst of times a necessity. “Transportation is important,” Korotki said. “But I honestly don’t think it’s the most important; I think you (fleet managers and workers) are … We support (first responders), and it’s critical. We are fleet services — service is in our name; we have to be there for those people.”
Korotki and Guzman recommended visiting FEMA’s website, www.fema.gov/plan-prepare, to start putting together a checklist to prepare your family and homes for disasters. For guidance on creating playbooks, visit https://training.fema.gov/nims/.