Written by Daniel Morelos. He serves on APCO's SDC and CCSC committees and is the standards review sub-committee chair and director of safety programs for the Tucson Arizona Airport Authority.
Risk management is a constant challenge for managers of public safety communications centers. Some proactive steps toward reducing risk involve early identification and aggressive action to mitigate and manage risk. Comm center managers should have systems and processes in place for identifying hazards in the center and assessing the risks of these hazards, and put measures in place to minimize or eliminate the risks associated with each hazard. Of course, that's easier said than done. Before starting the process, it's a good idea to establish an understanding of what risk and risk management are and the benefits of risk-management programs.
What Is Risk? Risk is "the possibility of loss or injury; peril; or the perils to a person or thing that is insured." Simply put, risk is the likelihood and consequence of the occurrence of injury or harm. Public safety communications managers should be focused on preventing hazards and finding ways to reduce risks associated with the services rendered. This is accomplished by instituting a quality risk management program.
Types of Risk: There are many types of risk to be aware of, including workload, fatigue, situational awareness, user interface, training, control and display design, stress, individual differences, shift work and human error. Maybe you've experienced or dealt with one or two of these. Below are a few of the most common risks associated with the comm center:
- Procedures not being followed.
- Failure to verify address and callback number.
- Lack of protocols to follow.
- Failure to follow protocol.
What is Risk Management? Risk management is "the treatment of exposures to loss; the science of anticipating and controlling the elemental, inherent and environmental hazards that could [cause] financial loss; and determination of the most effective ways of coping with such a loss." Risk management involves the transfer of the risk of financial loss elsewhere and the prevention of the risk of injury or damage.
A comm center manager's best approach to risk management is to promote the safe and effective delivery of communications coordination service, identify and mitigate potential risks through well-developed procedures and processes, and protect agency assets and resources. These approaches have been a challenge to uphold. Many managers face resource constraints and staff are stretched thin. But there's help for the manager to better handle these situations; APCO is one source.
Benefit of Risk Management: Ever hear the phrase, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"? This is the essence of risk management. Risk management programs provide a clear, structured approach to identifying risks and serve as a key component to the success and sustainability of the center. Having a clear understanding of all risks allows the center to measure and prioritize them and take appropriate actions.
Benefits of risk management programs include:
- Protecting people from harm.
- Reducing and preventing liability.
- Saving resources.
- Enhancing the ability to prepare for various circumstances.
- Protecting the reputation and public image of the agency.
Why Manage Risk? In today's litigious society, managing risk is just good, sound business, and agencies should have a risk-management strategy in place. Reasons to have a strategy in place include:
- Agencies and individuals are held to very high standards.
- People are more aware of the level of service to expect and the resources they can take if they feel they have been wronged.
- Agencies are being held liable for the actions of employees.