Planning an Effective and Compassionate Emergency ResponseLisa Kelliher, Senior Vice President, Southeast Region
MV serves an extensive network of transit agencies and organizations across the US and Canada and each year we will face wildfires in the west, hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and blizzards in the northeast and Canada. We don’t always know when or where a disaster will strike but we know it will eventually and we prepare accordingly.
Our vision is to “deliver the best customer experience with industry leading safety, reliability and innovation.” When significant challenges occur outside of our control, such as natural disasters, our teams don’t set this vision aside, we lean in and let it guide us while continuing to provide necessary transportation for our riders to their important destinations. We believe the same level of operational rigor and training that contributes to MV’s success as a transportation services provider enables our teams to respond appropriately to disasters including maintaining high standards of safety, establishing well-defined roles, expecting the unexpected and communicating clearly.
Regardless of the nature of a potential disaster that a community is facing, we recommend that emergency transit operating plans encompass the following four key attributes to help mitigate the overall impact:
- Maintain Vital Transportation – While it may be necessary to alter or curtail certain routes, maintain reliable transportation for those that need it. Even under the worst of circumstances, hospital workers, first responders, and dialysis patients still need to get to their destinations.
- Protect People and Property – Safety should always be the top priority and a natural disaster requires even higher levels of discipline. Operating with high winds during a wildfire and flooded streets caused by a storm surge require additional training and preparation to protect our riders and employees from potentially hazardous conditions. Evaluate securing additional supplies of fuel, water, and other necessities as appropriate to protect the fleet and critical transportation facilities.
- Coordinate and Collaborate – For the most effective disaster response, it is important to maintain a close working relationship between transportation providers and local, state, and federal emergency response and public health agencies. During a hurricane, for example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may often lead the emergency evacuation planning activities that our transportation will support.
- Support your Employees – Never forget that while your employees are serving their riders, their own families and homes are often at risk. In these times, MV has leveraged its national reach, strengthened by our strong spirit of teamwork, to bring in additional operators, dispatchers, maintenance techs and even vehicles if needed to augment the local team. Ensure all staff rosters are updated daily – if not hourly – and check on every employee regularly to ensure you know their individual status.
While natural disasters strike often, pandemics do not. MV leveraged many elements of our proven emergency response plans to address COVID-19. With little time to prepare when the pandemic first hit, we developed a response tailored for each particular customer, implemented enhanced safety and disinfecting protocols in close collaboration with public health officials, and quickly established a national supply chain network that provided access to severely constrained personal protection equipment and cleaning supplies.
Today, whether it be the remaining issues related to the pandemic or natural disasters – or both, transit organizations should maintain their focus and commitment to “the customer experience” to guide them and their teams safely through the challenge.