The gibberish spouted by emergency officials

City emergency officials use terminology that is just gobbledigook to normal people in times of crisis

TORONTO, Ont. Nov. 25, 2016/ Troy Media/ – TV Announcer: “Stand by. We are now going live to a news conference in Brisbane, Australia. Journalists have assembled to question an emergency management official on that city’s state of readiness. It is not known at this time if Brisbane is facing an urban emergency, but that will be the subject raised in the news conference.

As background, Brisbane has a level of “Activation” called “stand down” and another called “stand up” followed by “lean forward.” Each is more heightened in turn. The top level is “Alert” and is “heightened vigilance.” Lean forward means “operational readiness” … stand up means “resources are mobilized” and stand down means “back to normal.”

As you can see on your screen, those levels again are:

  • Alert … heightened vigilance
  • Lean forward … operational readiness
  • Stand Up … resources are mobilized
  • Stand Down … back to normal

And now we join the news conference, live and in progress, from the Emergency Operations Centre in Brisbane Australia.

Emergency Official: “Next question please …”

Journalist: “Has the city activated its response?

Emergency Official: “We always have a level of activation.”

Journalist: “I think the public would want to know what level we are at now.”

Official: “Right now we’re back to normal.”

Journalist: “Since you’re an emergency responder, does ‘normal’ mean you’re mobilized and ready to go?”

Official: “No, that would mean we’d be on ‘stand up.’”

Journalist: “Isn’t that on ‘stand by.’”

Official: “No, there’s no such thing. We stand up and stand down, but we don’t stand by. You might be thinking of Alert.”

Journalist: “If you’re on ‘Alert’ doesn’t that mean you’ve mobilized?”

Official: “No, that’s ‘stand up’ as I just said. Alert refers to heightened vigilance.”

Journalist: “But if you’re on ‘Alert’ you’d surely be ready to react to the emergency.”

Official: “No, I think you mean ‘operational readiness’ and that occurs in our ‘lean forward’ level, and of course we lean forward after standing up.”

Journalist: “So with operational readiness then, you and your team would be vigilant, I assume.”

Official: “No, I think you mean ‘heightened vigilance’ that that’s the state we’re in at the “Alert” level.”

Journalist: “So when you mobilize your equipment and people, they’re not on alert or vigilant?”

Official: “No, heightened vigilance occurs when we’re Alert.”

Journalist: “So you’re not Alert when you mobilize equipment?”

Official: “Of course not – mobilization is a function of the stand-up phase.”

Journalist: “And you’re not Alert when you are operationally ready?”

Official: “Of course not, operational readiness is a function of the lean forward phase, at which time I can assure you, we are not Alert.”

Journalist: “So you stand up, lean forward, and become alert?”

Official: “Pretty much, as the situation warrants, such as it is, as it were, in a manner of speaking.”

Journalist: “Isn’t ‘stand down’ a bit of a contradiction – standing is upright and down is not upright.”

Official: “Look, we use this official terminology in order to provide absolute clarity and safety to the general public.”

Journalist: “I just googled ‘stand down’ and it means ‘resign from office.’ Does this mean the emergency is going so badly you have to resign.”

Official: “No, stand down is an expression, mainly from the military, and meaning to relax after a state of readiness. That means we’ve all done our jobs and probably will get promotions.”

Journalist: “But doesn’t an expression like that make you want to stop up-sitting and up-get and out-walk.”

Official: “No, that would be in the stand-up and lean forward phases.”

Journalist: “Is Brisbane in an emergency or not?”

Official: “Not anymore.”

Troy Media columnist Dr. Allan Bonner has consulted on some of the major planning and public policy issues of our time on five continents over 25 years. He is the author of Safer Cities. Allan is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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