Before Disaster, Responder Families' Needs

Nov. 9, 2008
Responders often have to choose between taking care of family and staying with their job during disasters.

Daphne Levenson, the wife of a retired police officer, became passionate about her cause because of one phone call. Soon after Katarina hit New Orleans she got a phone call from a woman, the wife of a small town police officer and mother of three kids.

The woman had evacuated to Dallas, had maxed out her credit cards, needed medical prescriptions ordered but had no doctor, and didn't know if her responder husband was alive or dead. She was frantic and without a plan.

Levenson, Director, Gulf State Regional Community Policing Institute in Louisiana saw that in times of disaster like this, responders had to make a decision between family and career.

And in most situations, the entity employing the responder had no plan for dealing with the problem. Families were on their own.

Her effort along with that of Joel Bolton, also with Gulf State Regional CPI, will culminate in January with a class, Critical Employee Emergency Planning (CEEP) that will introduce public safety, hospitals, governments and other critical infrastructure agencies to planning guidance for such situations as Katrina.

Over and over Levenson saw after Katrina instances of struggling responder families, who left their spouse on short notice. In one case she knows of, a veteran New Orleans officer who lost his job because he had to evacuate his disabled wife.

With a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, Levenson and Bolton went to work to create the structure that would address such problems as responder's failure to report to work or leaving their post during a disaster. It is to help relieve distractions during work during disasters and address employee retention issues post-disaster.

The class will assist agencies with an introduction to CEEP and a way to create plans, policies and partnerships for responder families. It helps agencies understand what families need to know before there is a disaster. And it helps agencies understand and prepare for the emotional response expected in such separations.

The eight-hour one-day class is created to fit into conference style venues. DHS funding leaves the host without cost for this class.

Those interested in booking this course or need more information should call GSRCPI tool free at 1-888-283-0966 or visit Gulf State Regional Community Policing Institute online.

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