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Emergency preparedness is a necessity.

NIC has had a long-term commitment to emergency preparedness for correctional institutions. We know that in prisons maintaining a serious level of readiness for crises and emergencies is difficult; it requires budget, time and management attention. It is not easy to stay motivated about events that are infrequent and usually unpredictable. However, a major riot or hostage siege can define a correctional department for decades, and even a disturbance or natural disaster that lasts several hours may produce multiple injuries or deaths and millions in damage. Increasingly, state correctional departments have recognized that comprehensive emergency preparedness is not a choice but a necessity.

In the early 1980s, NIC offered the first emergency preparedness training in the country for top managers. The training dealt with prison situations ranging from natural disasters to riots to labor strife. A few years later, NIC sponsored pilot projects in several states, attempting to develop comprehensive and consistent systems of emergency preparation and response throughout correctional departments. In 1996, NIC published the first self-audit materials on emergency preparedness in prisons, allowing an institution or a department to evaluate its own degree of readiness for large-scale crises and disasters. For the past 10 to 15 years, NIC has also regularly sponsored technical assistance projects on emergency preparedness. NIC is currently completing a critical incident review as a technical assistance project for the Louisiana Department of Corrections, assessing their responses to the two hurricanes.

In August 2005, NIC sponsored a half-day workshop on emergency preparedness for correctional facilities at ACA's summer conference in Baltimore. The workshop was heavily interactive and well attended by a broad cross-section of managers and administrators from across the country. The reactions to this workshop were very positive, again reinforcing the importance of this topic for correctional agencies.

New Developments

NIC announces three new developments in this area. In August 2005, NIC published A Guide to Preparing for and Managing Prison Emergencies. The guide was developed through a cooperative agreement with LETRA Inc., of Campbell, Calif. The first part of the monograph consists of updated and expanded self-audit materials. There is a freestanding checklist on general emergency preparedness in prisons, a second checklist focusing on fire and natural disasters, and a third self-audit checklist on counter-terrorism measures in prisons. A second section of the monographcontains resource materials, chapters on leadership during crisis, management

of emergency teams, prevention of prison emergencies, etc. The last section includes seven case studies of actual high-profile emergencies in correctional institutions, with a "lessons learned" section for each situation.

The guide is available free from the NIC Information Center at 1-800-995-6429 and may be requested in hard copy, on CD or both, and can be downloaded at The electronic form of the guide allows a department or institution to print multiple copies of the checklists and tally sheets that may be convenient for conducting actual self audits. Further, the CD version allows institutions to conduct entirely paperless audits using laptop computers.

Training for Deputy Directors

In the spring of 2006, NIC will offer a training program designed for deputy directors of state correctional departments in the use of the guide's self-audit materials. That seminar will follow the format of NIC's earlier training in security auditing. Rather than receiving only classroom presentation or theory, participants will actually use the materials to conduct emergency preparedness audits in several prisons of a host state (in this case, Maryland). This seminar will be repeated in the fall of 2006.

E-Learning Curriculum

NIC is also working to create an e-learning course on emergency preparedness. The course will be aimed at an audience ranging from front-line to mid-management staff and is intended to provide participants with an introduction to key concepts and principles in emergency preparedness. The average time needed to complete the e-learning course is less than two hours; however, actual times will vary for each participant. Rather than relying on an academic format, the course is built around a recent and very dramatic hostage situation that occurred in a large correctional institution in 2004. The student is placed in a staff position where he or she must respond to events as they developed in this incident. Best practices are highlighted, and the student is encouraged to use aspects of the course to assess emergency readiness in his or her own institution. The course should be available within several months and will be accessible directly from the NIC Web site, where it will be maintained with a growing number of other corrections-specific e-learning courses.

Additional Information

For additional information, contact: Randy Corcoran, Program Manager, Community Corrections/Prisons Division, National Institute of Corrections, 320 First St., NW, Room 5007, Washington, DC 20534; 1-800-995-6423, ext. 40058;

Jeffrey A. Schwartz, Ph.D., is the president of LETRA Inc., of Campbell, Calif. He and LETRA have worked with NIC for more than 25 years on emergency preparedness grants, cooperative agreements and technical assistance projects.
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Title Annotation:NIC Update; programs offered by National Institute of Corrections
Author:Schwartz, Jeffrey A.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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