Part 2 of 3: Talk to the Lawyer Before Something Bad Happens
We all have really good ideas sometimes, which is great. Innovation and improvisation is the way things get done in Emergency Management. However, Emergency Managers tend to be a one-person show, having many more things to do than time to do it. The important thing though is to involve the lawyers early. If done right, they can help you craft a plan, agreement, or strategy that is nearly bullet proof should something happens.
John shared a situation in Washington that he observed, which was luckily caught in time. At one point, if a firefighter was deployed in support of another agency fighting Wildfires, a question arose “who is financially responsible if the firefighter gets hurt?” Luckily, the lawyer got together and decided that if anything happened to a firefighter deployed in support of another agency’s emergency, the freighter would be covered under Washington State’s Worker’s Compensation program.
Impact on Emergency Management
An easy example of when Emergency Managers should talk to the lawyers is in mutual aid agreements. When you boil it down, mutual aid agreements are essential a contract between two or more government entities. Because of this, it is an extremely good idea to let the attorneys in on the process early to help craft the most effective agreement possible. The key is to not look at involvement of lawyers as a roadblock, but a protection. John stated that by having adequate legal counsel, Emergency Managers will ensure that plans and agreements can be made nearly bullet proof. Involvement early also helps preserve relationships by addressing issues early in agreements instead of waiting until they blow up into litigation later on.