We’ve Got CRGs; Now What?

In April of 2019, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness declared Critical Response Group’s Collaborative Response Graphics a protective measures best practice.

Many of your school districts or jurisdictions have already embraced this best practice and have acquired (or are in the process of acquiring) CRGs for your school building(s) and/or other critical infrastructure.

Now that you’re following that best practice by having CRGs, what are some of the best practices for actually using them?

The keys to successful outcomes with CRGs come down to accessibility, familiarization, and use. Let’s break each of these down:

Accessibility

CRGs are incredibly versatile products. They can be used in electronic format on a myriad of platforms. They can be printed out and stored or distributed in virtually limitless, user-defined configurations.

CRGs work best when first responders and stakeholders authorized to use them have immediate, unfettered access to the products. The best way to accomplish this is to securely place them in as many locations and forms as possible.

The typical public safety organization has multiple electronic platforms: Power DMS and learning management systems, CAD/RMS, mobile computers, in-house servers, and GIS systems, to name just a few. Instead of trying to determine which platform is best for storing your CRGs, why not place them on ALL of the platforms?

Such an approach ensures that your responders can access CRGs as quickly as possible via whichever platform they happen to be have access to at the moment.

Taking advantage of the versatility of CRGs in print form is another way to provide responders the opportunity to access your products regardless of situation or condition. Consider a 3-ring binder in each response vehicle containing all of the CRGs for your jurisdiction.

You can also ensure that large-format versions are placed in mobile command posts and emergency operations centers.

Another good practice is to stage multiple copies at your critical infrastructure sites for quick distribution at staging areas or to mutual-aid responders self-deploying or otherwise arriving on scene.

Arguably, the most critical location for CRGs to be readily available is the communications center. Public safety telecommunicators function as the air traffic controllers of the public safety world. Their use of CRGs and the alpha-numeric grids to communicate location is an integral part of a successful operation.

Familiarization

As easy as CRGs are to use and understand, you don’t want the critical moment of an incident to be the first time in the last year that your personnel are accessing the associated CRGs.

The first and easiest way to ensure familiarity is to inculcate your personnel through the regular use of CRGs during training and drills. In addition to agency training, CRGs can be used during all school drills. In New Jersey, for example, N.J.S.18A:41-1 requires multiple drills to be conducted annually including fire drills, active shooter drills, evacuation drills, bomb threat drills, and lockdown drills. Failing to use CRGs during these drills misses a valuable opportunity to familiarize both school staff as well as participating first responders with the CRGs they’ll rely on for communication and coordination in a crisis.

Use

While it’s obvious that you would use CRGs during an active killer incident or other critical incident, there are many other events during which CRGs prove useful for communication and coordination.

For the typical community, CRGs can be used for:

  • coordinating security and crowd/traffic control at middle and high school graduation ceremonies
  • coordinating security at high school football games and other events held at stadium fields that involve large crowds
  • coordinating security and crowd control at annual fireworks displays
  • coordinating security and crowd/traffic control at concerts, festivals, races, or other events that include large numbers of attendees or participants– especially when personnel from multiple agencies are present

Using CRGs allows personnel to hone skills and procedures. It also breeds further familiarity.

Bring it all Together

One way to tie together all three of these critical factors– accessibility, familiarization, and use– is through the pre-event briefing for planned events. In addition to all of the usual components of an effective briefing, the following five CRG-related items should be addressed during any pre-event briefing when CRGs are available:

  • issue printed copies of applicable CRGs to all personnel. This increases accessibility beyond the other electronic platforms through which they may also access the products. It further provides a layer of redundancy.
  • personnel should ensure that they’re using the proper version of the CRGs by verifying the Version Control Number located on the CRGs
  • use the alpha-numeric grid system to assign areas of responsibility
  • identify any areas of concern using the CRGs and alpha-numeric grid
  • identify staging, triage, to other predetermined locations using the applicable CRGs

Following these steps ensures that personnel are familiar with the applicable CRGs and that all of your personnel are using the most current version of the CRG(s).

Maintaining Accuracy

A final point is to be mindful that part of a CRG’s value comes from the fact that it accurately represents the floor plans and surrounding areas of your building(s). Keeping your CRGs current by ensuring that changes in your buildings and properties are accurately reflected is necessary to maximize their potential and effectiveness. Those changes are easily accomplished through Critical Response Group’s product maintenance program.

Focusing on accessibility, familiarization, and use will ensure that your personnel maintain a high level of proficiency with CRGs— which translates into a more proficient and effective response.

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