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CALEA Update Magazine | Issue 107

Risk Management - Kick-Start Your Program

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   Originally published in February 2012 Public Safety Communications and posted with permission of APCO International. For membership and subscription information, visit

In the February 2011 issue of Public Safety Communications, I wrote an article that offered some basic steps managers could take in developing a risk management program for their centers. The subject of risk management in the comm center is becoming ever more relevant today, and this article is intended to offer additional information on the subject.

Managers of public safety communications centers (PSCCs) know each day will bring forth a host of issues that could increase the level of risk to their agency. What are you and your agency doing to effectively manage risk? This question must be answered by every PSCC manager whose agency is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

The CALEA standards manual for PSCCs contains a section dedicated to risk management (1.2 General Management and Administration; 1.2.1 Risk Management Program). It focuses on what the agency is doing to protect itself from risk by providing basic compliance criteria and ensuring a risk management program is in place. Each standard requires the agency to show how it is achieving compliance. For example, the agency must show CALEA assessors that:

• It has a risk management program in place;

• An identifiable person is in charge;

• The program provides adequate liability coverage;

• It conducts an annual review of the risk management program; and

• A written report of issues and conditions that affect risk, worker’s compensation and liability is required.

The requirements listed are fairly common in the public and private sectors and serve as protective layers to help address and mitigate risk. With insurance costs on the rise and the economy still on the mend, agencies are looking at ways to cut costs by taking a closer look at how they conduct business and improve on the services they provide, and at whether there is any exposure to risk. In the risk management world, the compliance standards for risk in this section would be viewed as reactive in nature. Although the CALEA standards (reactive) serve as a general baseline, there is much more an agency can do by infusing best practice controls to help to mitigate risk before it happens (proactive).

Before the PSCC manager can begin to proactively address risk, they should know what risk is. One of the simplest definitions of risk, according to FEMA, is the probability that an event will occur and the consequences of its occurrence. ISO 31000 (2009 Risk Management—Principles and Guidelines) describes risk as the “effect of uncertainty on objectives = risk.” Managing risk from this perspective is more proactive than reactive, which is where one should be.

When looking to identify risk, CALEA suggests agencies consider both external and internal areas that can be the basis of injury to the public or other employees and create liability for the agency. Also, the physical conditions inside and outside the facility should be assessed to identify potential problems that could or have caused physical injury.

Some examples of risk to your communications center may include omission or failure of policies and procedures, employee or supervisor negligence, and deficient equipment or training to name a few.

Agencies should verify their liability insurance protection is being carefully reviewed by professionals to ensure all likely risks are being addressed. If your agency is considering developing a risk management program, I encourage you to reach out to those PSCCs accredited by CALEA. They are a valuable resource and would be glad to share their information and experiences with you. Contact CALEA via its website at

Daniel Morelos is director of safety programs for the Tucson Airport Authority and serves on APCO International’s Standards Development Committee and Call Center Standards Committee

 ‘Being CALEA-accredited can limit a communications center’s liability & risk exposure because it demonstrates that internationally recognized standards for public safety communications have been met, as verified by a team of independent outside CALEA-trained assessors.’ —

Daniel Morelos
Director of Safety Programs
Tuscon Airport Authority
Tuscon, AZ
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