As with many of our Back of the Bridge articles, we start with a few key passages from the ST:TNG Technical Manual, and stitch them together into a job description:
• The Environmental Systems bridge station is used for “execution of survival scenarios such as evacuation to environmental shelter areas.”
• On a Galaxy class ship, there are 52 emergency shelter areas designed to remain habitable even in the event of major system outages elsewhere in the spacecraft, equipped with independent emergency breathing gas, water, food, and power supplies.
• Emergency preparedness protocols specify that at least 40% of crew and attached personnel must be cross-trained for various secondary assignments, including emergency medical, triage, and other disaster response functions, including Engineering and Security duties. During Yellow and Red Alerts protocols, cross-trained personnel with noncritical primary assignments report to their secondary assignments as necessary.
• Starship personnel train to execute rescue and evacuation operations, both to the ship (from another ship or a planetary surface) and from the ship (to another ship, a planetary surface, or into space). A Galaxy class ship can support up to 15,000 evacuees with conversion of shuttlebays and cargo bays to emergency living accommodations. For “abandon ship” evacuations, the crew can utilize everything from transporters to shuttlecraft to emergency lifeboats to putting on an environmental suit and stepping out a window.
Put it all together, and you realize that every starship needs a designated Emergency Operations Officer, someone who makes sure that the plans are in place, the personnel are trained and drilled, and the batteries in the smoke detectors are changed annually. This is especially critical on ships like the Galaxy class with a large civilian population.
Depending on the size of the ship and the mission profile, I see several different options for the Emergency Ops position. First, standard operating procedure seems to be to combine the roles of Tactical Officer (i.e., guy who fires photon torpedoes) and Security Officer (i.e., space cop / meatshield). Those are really two very different jobs, so you could easily split them up and combine Security and Emergency Ops as a kind of crew safety czar.
Second, there’s nothing wrong with making this a full-time job, especially if the Emergency Ops Officer has a dedicated staff of techs to maintain the emergency shelters and lifeboats.
Third, I like the idea of combining this job with Beta Shift or Gamma Shift Officer of the Watch. Once in a while, we see a senior officer working a second or third shift, but as discussed in our post about Second Officers, there’s generally a sense that almost everything important happens between 8 A.M. and 4 P.M., and then some group of “Lower Decks” types just kind of keep the chairs warm for sixteen hours until the cool stuff starts again. Assuming that you don’t want your First Officer to stand a separate watch every day, why not take a couple of LT(JG)s, make one Mission Ops / Beta Shift OOTW and the other Emergency Ops / Gamma Shift OOTW, and treat them as part of the senior staff. They show up for major briefings, Yellow and Red Alerts, and anytime the Captain needs either their specific expertise or an extra Command officer. This gets the Beta and Gamma Shifts back in the loop, and there’s a good argument for keeping your Emergency Ops Officer on duty while most of the crew is asleep.
Only downside to this arrangement is that our Beta and Gamma Shift commanders are probably working some weird hours, helping out during Alpha Shift while still putting in a full eight hours later on. Surely Starfleet has plenty of alien officers with weird sleep patterns who can handle a few hours of intensive emergency Alpha Shift activity right after eight hours of relatively quiet Gamma Shift. On an Intrepid class bridge, you’d put these guys (in their non-OOTW capacities) at the back of the bridge, on either side of master systems display. To be on the safe side, Starfleet should probably install some coffee cup holders.