Tearing Down Silos


I get that it is an overused illustration, but your position as an emergency manager requires you to break down the silos that litter our field. Emergency Management is made up of a ton of different areas, and we are tasked with bringing all of these people together and this requires that we tear some silos down.

Silos can be imagined as different cliques within an organization that fail to interact with others within their office. This is obviously a problem, but despite this, there is little cross pollination of ideas or sharing of findings beyond a limited few. Anytime there is a discussion of the silos concept, it’s usually on breaking them down in order for the individual to see things from a different angle, but as an emergency manager, the emphasis needs to be tearing them down in an attempt to have everyone see from new angles, and to function better.

A quality emergency manager is someone who is familiar with and samples each silo and its contents. They cannot see the world through a single set of lenses, because it influences everything we do. While it is slowly changing, in many jurisdictions the emergency manager role was generally filled with a retired fire chief, or someone else from the fire service. To these individuals, everything looked like a fire response. If a police officer was in the role, everything looked like a crime and needed to be solved accordingly. What do we do if it is neither of these things and the real solution is missed because to these individuals, everything looked like a crime or a fire?

When silos are torn down, things begin to get clearer and the voices can be heard that may have otherwise been missed. You might have the perfect subject matter expert down the street from you, but when we are not communicating, and focused inwardly on our small piece of the total picture, it is missed. In addition, tearing down silos forces others out of their silos and allows everyone to start working from new angles. This move, while initially uncomfortable, creates an atmosphere where stuff actually starts to get done.

Building strong networks is vital to breaking down silos and communicating information about preparedness to everyone. Without a deliberate approach, the lives of those we serve may be impacted.

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