That’s…A Bad Plan

Ever heard someone say, “In a real emergency, plans go out the window!”  I’ve heard it a million times…and I hate it.  If your plan hasn’t been written applicably, that’s…a bad plan. If it hasn’t been exercised with you staff and stakeholders, it’s useless.  If your plan isn’t engrained into your organization to the point of being second nature, you’ve got work left to do.

I’ve heard time and again that, “noone is going to do that,” in an emergency. I used to shrug and think well, that’s true. Who’s going to have time to make this call or commit to that action, in a real emergency? But I finally understand, I have been giving excuses to something that really doesn’t deserve them.

It seems many EM folks have been looking for ways to get around plans for years. Why? Incident Command gives us a clear direction on who does what, when and how.  Yet we fight against this, and all plans, constantly.  Allow me to elaborate.

Some time ago I participated in a discussion about triage. Folks were discussing ways to triage and track patients and instead of thinking of consistent, reliable plans, they decided on behalf of “triagers” that they were unchangeable, unwilling or incapable.  It became impossible to make a plan because instead of considering what was needed, we left with a nice idea and an “understanding” we’d never actually do it.

Another example: in a discussion about sharing information, everyone bypassed the Liaison Officer concept and the usage of a Public Information Officer, opting to contact whomever was in their address book because “you can’t rely on this agency to contact that agency to let them know what’s going on.”

Please understand, I am thoroughly impressed at the robust network many have established, but, if that person gets hit by a bus before a disaster, I need to know I’m going to know what I need to know. I need to trust that a specific role has a function, understands it and completes it. Networking is invaluable, but I can’t create a plan out of anyone’s personal network, because I can’t create a plan only one person can follow.

So…why write impossible things we only plan to bypass?  I submit to you that any plan that causes you to make up your own on the spot or leaves you lacking any faith in it, is….a bad plan.  Train your staff or change your plan, either way it needs to work.


And now boys and girls, a story!

Have you ever been to the fast food chain Wendy’s and noticed the square hamburger pattys and wondered why? The founder of Wendy’s, Dave Thomas, built his company on the motto that, “We don’t cut corners on quality.” He left the hamburger corners there as a reminder to his staff and to his consumers that this was their underlying value. True story!

Friends, colleagues, it’s time we stop cutting corners too. Let’s make the corners work, let’s get efficient, let’s get applicable, and let’s leave those corners there for our staff and our consumers to be reminded we’re here to give our best everyday.

Let’s stop writing plans we don’t even believe we’ll use, because if we don’t believe what we’re saying, it is highly improbable anyone else will either.

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About tjlasagna

Wife, mom, musician, writer, emergency management lover. 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

Posted on April 12, 2013, in Planning, Preparedness, Response and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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