Alachua County takes one-size-fits-all approach to crisis plan

Florida's Alachua County operates from its Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) when it responds to any type of crisis.

"This is an ‘all-hazards’ plan, meaning that while some details of a specific incident would be determined by that incident, most of the tasks needing to be done are the same no matter the cause," Emergency Management Director and Intelligence Liaison Officer for Alachua County Fire Rescue David Donnelly said in an interview with BioPrepWatch. "So for a biological emergency, we would utilize the same resources at our disposal."

The primary task for emergency-management personnel is to support the community, first-responders and county government through the management of information and resources, as well as policy guidance.

"We have gone so far as to create an annex to our Continuity of Operations Plan to address a pandemic incident and how we may have to change (emergency operations center) staffing patterns based on the risk of infection, implementation of social distancing, etc.," Donnelly said. The annex accounts for situations that may require operating more than one EOC or even a virtual EOC to allow personnel to remain in the office or at home as a measure of protection.

The plan is flexible, as seen during the H1N1 flu several years ago. The county did not activate the emergency operations center for that incident, but did perform other emergency support functions. "We were the ordering point for supplies (N95 Masks, FluMist, etc.) for public health to request," Donnelly said. "They then distributed those supplies to schools and other critical facilities."

The emergency management department frequently trains with its partners to maintain high readiness levels. "As with any incident, communication and collaboration during the preparedness phase are key to a good response," Donnelly said.