Five Resources to Help You Prepare for a Crisis


by Posted on May 13, 2013

In the April issue of Parks & Recreation, we ran a feature on preparing park and recreation agencies for human threats. Danielle Taylor, associate editor explains that this article had been in the works for several months and was originally focused solely on active-shooter situations, but just before the issue went to print, the bombings at the Boston Marathon occurred. In the wake of this tragedy at an event coordinated in part by a major parks and recreation department, she quickly rethought the article and broadened the focus to other sorts of incidents that can occur in parks. In this post, Danielle smartly points out that park and recreation professionals must prepare for everything in an ever-changing world and offers five resources that agencies can use to help formulate plans and be prepared. 


Unfortunately, terrorism has become part of our reality, and it’s disturbing to even think of all of the possibilities that can happen at a moment’s notice. However, a call to Kathy Capps, grants and risk manager for North Carolina’s City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department, greatly encouraged me. We talked for more than an hour about all of the ways her agency has established a comprehensive emergency action plan and is currently training all staff to understand the protocols for each situation. I grew up in Raleigh, and my parents still live there and often visit its parks, so it’s extremely reassuring to know that if anything were to happen while a loved one is in one of Raleigh’s parks, the department is ready and prepared to protect its patrons.

Parks employees plant a memorial cherry tree at the site of the Boston Marathon’s bombing. It will bloom annually at the same time the Boston Marathon is held each year.


Park and recreation professionals may worry less about human threats than people in more contentious job fields, but that doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable. Just a few short months ago, a disgruntled park and recreation employee in Seattle showed up to work with a gun and shot a coworker in the chest.


If you do not already have plans in place for reacting quickly and effectively to a human threat, now’s the time to get started. The following resources may be helpful to you as you establish or revisit your emergency procedures:



  • Protective Measures Guide for the U.S. Outdoor Venues Industry — Every emergency planner associated with parks and recreation should read this Department of Homeland Security document geared specifically toward safety and security for outdoor facilities.
  • RUN HIDE FIGHT: Surviving an Active Shooter — The City of Houston developed this six-minute video, which portrays a mass shooting at an office building and provides step-by-step instructions for how to react safely. As the video shows, in the case of a situation like an active shooter, it’s best to run if you can, hide if you can’t and fight if all else fails.
  • FEMA 452 — This useful FEMA document focuses on how to do a terrorist threat assessment for your facility.
  • Active Shooter: Recommendations and Analysis for Risk Mitigation — The NYPD has gathered information on active-shooter situations that have occurred since 1966 and maintains a comprehensive database of details. Updated following the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, this guide offers insight into the trends shown in these tragic situations and provides emergency-planning suggestions to fellow governmental agencies.
  • Lessons Learned Information Sharing — Hosted by the Department of Homeland Security, LLIS is a forum where members can learn from past incidents and share ideas with others. Registration is required. 



If you want to learn even more, Kathy Capps will be hosting a webinar with NRPA on preparing for active shooter situations at 2 p.m. on May 23. 


As I learned while reworking the article, you never know when or where the next incident might be.  By collaborating with each other, we can help make our parks become some of the safest places in our communities. 


Has your agency developed or are you developing contingency plans for crisis situations?  What steps are you taking to plan? What resources have you found useful to help you prepare? Please let us know what you’re doing in the comments section below.



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