Coordinating, Integrating, and Synchronizing Disaster Response: Use of an Emergency Response Synchronization Matrix in Emergency Planning, Exercises, and Operations

November 2001 (VOL. 19, NO. 3)

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A graphical depiction of the entire emergency response process via a synchronization matrix is an effective management tool for optimizing the design, exercise, and real-life implementation of emergency plans. This system-based approach to emergency planning depicts how a community organizes its response tasks across space and time. It gives responders the opportunity to make real-time adjustments to maximizing the often limited resources in protecting area residents. An effective response to any natural or technological hazard must involve the entire community and must not be limited by individual jurisdictions and organizations acting on their own without coordination, integration, and synchronization. \r\nAn emergency response to accidental release of chemical warfare agents from one of this nation’s eight chemical weapons stockpile sites, like any other disaster response, is complex. It requires the rapid coordination, integration, and synchronization of multiple levels of governmental and nongovernmental organizations from numerous jurisdictions, each with varying response capabilities, into a unified community response. The community response actions occur in an area extending from an on-site storage location to points 25 or more miles away. Actions are directed and controlled by responding local governments and agencies situated within the response area, as well as by state and federal operations centers quite removed from the area of impact. Time is critical and the protective action decision-making process is greatly compressed. To ensure an effective response with minimal confusion, given the potential catastrophic nature of such releases, the response community must carefully synchronize response operations. \r\n