Professionalising Emergency Personnel
by Bobby Lambert June 2003

The third Emergency Personnel Seminar (EPS), in what has now become a series, was held in New York in April. The HPN has reported on these seminars before, and continues to support the process. The aim of the seminars is to improve the ability of participating organisations, both individually and as a community, to find, select, prepare and retain personnel for emergency operations.

Specific objectives of the process include:

  • sharing and developing best practice;
  • fostering professional development;
  • facilitating individual collaborative opportunities;
  • developing collaboration between agencies; and
  • improving systems for the rapid recruitment and deployment of relief workers.

The EPS process complements other initiatives, notably that of People-in-Aid in the UK and Ireland, and the InterAction Protocol on Personnel Management in the US. It provides a unique opportunity for those concerned specifically with the rapid mobilisation of personnel for large-scale emergency response to network with each other and, at the EPS meetings, to come together to exchange experiences and develop solutions to what is a major strategic challenge in responding to emergencies.

Over the course of the seminars, progress has been made on concrete issues, notably on agreeing about the need for pre-deployment training and what such training should cover. At the last meeting in New York, however, there was frustration over the slow progress with regard to other matters. Despite this, the message that came through clearly was that those dealing with these difficult issues appreciate the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and experiences, and to develop or discover solutions to their problems.

A major area of discussion dealt with how agencies can improve their capacity to cope with the huge surges in demand for personnel that occur at times of emergency. Despite progress on developing registers of personnel and on increasing the linkages between such registers, there is still much to be done. At a basic technical level, a form of common language on the competencies required of personnel would help, and this is currently being developed.

Progress under the People-in-Aid initiative was noted, and several of the agencies piloting the code made presentations. Implementing the code takes time and can result in fairly significant changes in terms of how an organisation operates. It is too early to assess the impact on the effectiveness of relief and development programmes.

In recognition of the limitations of a series of one-off seminars and the need to maintain continuity between seminars, it was proposed that a network be set up – the Emergency Personnel Network – which would be managed by representatives of several of the agencies attending. The nature and institutional basis of this network would depend on an evaluation of the impact of the series of seminars held thus far.

Bobby Lambert Director, RedR, London. He can be contacted at RedR on: Tel +44 A(020) 7233 3116 Fax +44 (020) 7222 0564. Address: 1 Great George St, London SW1P 3AA, UK. Website: http://www.redr.org/.

A full report on the seminar is available at http://www.redr.org/epn.

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