You simply cannot be prepared for everything that life throws at you, but if you are anything like me, you really try to be. I have hard-copy notebooks, backed up by thumb drives, backed up by encrypted cloud-based searchable documents that can be pulled up anywhere. I gather reference documents for work and diligently squirrel them away “just in case” I get out to a disaster office and nobody knows what to do. I may think that I am really preparing myself and I am ready for anything, but alas, I do not know what it is that I do not know. My mettle was tested over the summer when I was deployed to Connecticut to respond to Severe Storms and Flooding. The Mitigation Branch Chief of the disaster wanted to bring in a person with “406 Mitigation experience”, but the job titles in the automated deployment system had changed, so that it was difficult to see who had that kind of experience. When he saw that I was available and had a technical GIS background, he figured that if I didn’t actually have 406 mitigation experience, then at the very least, I might be a quick study. He called me, and after we talked for a few minutes, he decided to deploy me not just as a 406 Mitigation Specialist…BUT AS THE GROUP SUPERVISOR!!! At this point I had already been working in emergency management for 2 ½ years, so I had the knowledge, resources and contacts to fill in many of the blanks. And there were MANY blanks. No one at the disaster had any real experience doing 406 mitigation, so I had to hunt around looking for information—websites, contacts, and making things up as I went along. I often thought of the saying we use in Emergency Management: “Don’t ask for permission, Ask for forgiveness.” I received a very good review from my manager after that deployment. So-here are the most important things that I did to keep my sanity and get the work done. This is for all of you Emergency Management folks out there who get thrown into a new position at a disaster, and want to avoid becoming a disaster yourself!
STRENGTH-FINDING–I listened to my team and tried to learn their strengths, and utilized those strengths, when possible.
PRIORITIZE–If there are multiple projects/meetings/deliverables happening at the same time, I would prioritize them and deploy my team members appropriately.
PREPARED ORGANIZATION–I don’t like to re-invent the wheel, so I keep detailed notes, templates, data sets, formulas, spreadsheets, etc. with me, and take them from disaster to disaster. As a worker, I am well-prepared, but as a manager, having this type of documentation is an essential armament for my team members.
COMMUNICATION–I keep the management up-to-date with my team’s progress using regular emails and spreadsheets. I create group emails, which I regularly used to inform my team of any important project information, without interrupting their work. Rather than long, drawn out meetings, I would pull together quick status update meetings about whatever is at hand, and then get back onto the project work.
These are the things that had the most impact on MY job performance. What kinds of things have helped you in similar situations?