X. Why Does Emergency Preparedness Require Training?

A. Why Is This an Important Issue?

Training activities are designed to inform court staff and local organizations about emergency preparedness in the court. To sensitize external agencies and response partners to the importance of the judicial branch as a component of the government community, the court should consider forming a Judiciary Emergency Management Group composed of court leaders, state and local law enforcement officials, state emergency management officials, the bar association, and the public defender’s office.

This group should meet regularly to discuss planning and training within and across their organizations. This type of formalized outreach and awareness effort encourages communications under normal conditions and fosters relationships that become vital during response and recovery from a disaster.

Viable emergency preparedness and response programs address the changing nature of the environment, especially the threat environment. Courts must be aware of changes to the local criminal-threat risk as well as other potential threats, including various forms of domestic terrorism (e.g., environmental, anti-government) that might make court facilities vulnerable or potential targets. Effective emergency preparedness programs often include external collaboration designed to ensure appropriate information sharing with law enforcement agencies, local area business councils, or other organizations with interest in keeping abreast of the current threat situation.

There is also a need to keep employees informed of changes to the threat environment—an internal information dissemination mechanism to heighten employee awareness. Regular broadcast e-mails, monthly newsletters, or informational posters may be used to provide information on specific aspects of emergency preparedness to court personnel.

The regular distribution of this type of information that keeps personnel current on emergency preparedness topics during the time between major training events. Internal and external outreach efforts are low-cost, high-value actions that may be initiated and conducted efficiently at the local level.

B. Suggestions and Considerations

Any emergency preparedness plan is of limited value unless the court tests it regularly—at least annually. Training should include the following:

• post building evacuation routes
• conduct periodic emergency evacuation drills
• test alarm systems regularly
• train court personnel how to use (and to practice using) satellite phones, text messaging, alternative communications networks, and message announcement systems

Ensure court COOP teams have “go-kits” (prepacked food and water, tools, forms, supplies, computer disks and other backup material, copies of the COOP plan, and a list of alternate site procedures) kept in multiple locations, including information in multiple formats (e.g., CD or memory stick). Since most emergencies are unforeseen, it is crucial that the go-kit contains current information at all times (NACM, 2005:4). An even more recent publication on Business Continuity Planning (NACM, 2006:26) emphasizes that key staff consider the safety and security of their own families and maintain a “drive away” kit for their family similar to the one maintained for their official duties.