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THE TWO-HAT SYNDROME

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Executive Session onDomestic PreparednessThe Executive Session on Domestic Pre-paredness (ESDP) is a standing taskforce of leading practitioners and aca-demic specialists concerned with terror-ism and emergency management. Spon-sored by the John F. Kennedy School ofGovernment, Harvard University, and theU.S. Department of Justice, the ESDPbrings together experts with operationalexperience in diverse professional fieldsthat are essential to domestic prepared-ness -- emergency management, law en-forcement, fire protection, public health,emergency medicine, national securityand defense, and elected office.The Perspectives on Preparedness seriesaims to provide useful information to theconcerned professional communitiesabout how the nation can enhance its abil-ity to respond to the threat of terrorism withweapons of mass destruction. The ESDPalso produces discussion papers andcase studies. Visit the ESDP website at:WWW.ESDP.ORG“THE TWO-HAT SYNDROME”: DETERMINING RESPONSE CAPABILITIES AND MUTUAL AID LIMITATIONS REBECCA F. DENLINGER WITH KRISTIN GONZENBACHHowever, an unanticipated problemsurfaces. Many emergency workers,particularly fire and rescue employees,work at more than one public safetyagency. When contacted, many of theoff-duty employees are at work on theirsecond jobs at these other agencies.Calling them in means they will have toabandon assigned duties at privateambulance services, local hospitals, andneighboring fire departments. Calling inthese employees narrows the pool ofpersonnel for nearby volunteer firedepartments.“Public safety agency” is an umbrellaphrase for a vast group that includespolice, fire, emergency medical services(EMS), 911 communications, publichealth, emergency management, andsheriff’s agencies. Public safetyemployers are likely to have developedcall-up plans designed to increase thenumber of personnel available to performthe agency’s mission in time of disaster.Call-up plans assume that off-dutypersonnel will report to work whencontacted to expand the agency’scapability.Imagine that the National WeatherService has reported a severethunderstorm advisory with tornadowatches covering the entire metropolitanarea. As the torrential rains begin incounty after county, reports of downedtrees and power lines, trapped people,and damage to buildings start to pour into911 centers. A tornado the size of a cityblock has touched down in four metrocounties, and is still moving. Emergencymanagers are sending fire apparatus,ambulances, and police in every directionto assist trapped and injured people, butmany responders cannot reach incidentscenes because trees and debris haveblocked roads. Counties invoke mutualaid from neighboring municipalities andopen emergency operation centers(EOCs). The state activates its EOC andbegins to receive calls for assistance.The storm passes. Citizens continue tocall for help. Responders are still havingtrouble traversing blocked roadways, andoff-duty personnel cannot reach stagingareas. By the time the storm ends,devastation extends across 12 counties.All these counties call up off-dutypersonnel for emergency shifts andcancel all scheduled days off.Perspectiveson Preparedness August 2002 No.11 BELFER CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS TAUBMAN CENTER FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTU.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICEOFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMSOFFICE FOR DOMESTIC PREPAREDNESSRebecca F. Denlinger is Chief of the Cobb County, Georgia Fire Departmentand is a member of the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness (ESDP).Kristin Gonzenbach is a Managing Partner at Callahan Management Strategies,LLC.PERSPECTIVES ON PREPAREDNESS / NO. 11 / AUGUST 2002“THE TWO-HAT SYNDROME”: DETERMINING RESPONSE CAPABILITIES AND MUTUAL AID LIMITATIONSAn informal survey of public safety workersfound that many have some type of secondaryemployment, often at another public safetyagency. This dependence on one another maycritically affect public safety agencies in timeof disaster. Of particular concern is thatextended breaks between long shifts allowfirefighters and EMS personnel to makecommitments to more than one agency. The“secondary” employer is likely to depend uponthe employee as much as the “primary”employer. The survey, conducted in the Atlantametropolitan area, found that among 16 firedepartments, an average of 22.2 percent ofemployees hold two or more public safetypositions. Moreover, a significant percentageof the public safety workforce hascommitments to the military reserve or NationalGuard. If those agencies activate theseemployees, other agencies could lose up to13 percent of their workforce.1Many firefighters have either emergencymedical technician (EMT) or paramediccertification and often use those certificationsto work for other public safety agencies,hospitals, or private ambulance companies.This raises questions about how many EMSworkers are actually available in a given areashould these employers need to expandservice. Are two agencies counting on thesame person to be available when planning fora disaster? Does a geographic area actuallyhave the number of emergency medicalresponders necessary to handle a crisis?Every jurisdiction must develop a strategicdisaster plan that includes the spectrum ofservice providers, or it may be left underservedin a disaster.The Two-Hat SyndromeThe two-hat syndrome is the dynamic in whichpublic safety workers hold at least two publicsafety positions. In an emergency, theseworkers might be called upon to perform bothjobs, or to wear both hats. Because eachemployee would be able to fill only one position,public safety agencies should identify whichemployees wear more than one hat, anddiscuss how critical each of those hats is toeach employer.The two-hat syndrome prompts a series of initialquestions: Where does an individual’s primaryduty lie when personnel call-ups occur? Whatplanning do agencies need to do to overcometheir reliance on the same individuals? Howdoes the two-hat syndrome affect acommunity’s actual response capability?These questions lead to others, equallycompelling and problematic:• How many of an agency’s employeesare military reservists and how wouldtheir activation affect staffing?• Can communities rely on public safetyagencies to increase their capabilityto remain effective in a disaster?• If an employee works for two agencies,who decides where the employee willreport if


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