Long Path Toward Catastrophic Preparedness (Part 2)

A post by Steve Cain upon his return from a Resource Allocation Workshop.

Some of you may be noticing a change in FEMA’s approach to emergency management. That become apparent at this workshop that I mentioned in the previous EDENblog.  That change in emergency management looks at the whole community as a resource. FEMA increasingly emphasizes “Whole of Community Response Planning” in all they do. Their goal is to improve the nation’s preparedness through more effective collaboration with all members of the community. This reflects a shift from a government centric approach to the concept that communities are capable of providing self-aid/self-help. These principles depend on:

  • A public that is a resource, not a liability  
  • Engaging atypical partners and collaborators 
  • Training and exercises that involve all stakeholders   

 Also, whole community planning may mean that response agencies need to: 

  • Obtain regulatory waivers, change standards, and change policy 
  • Focus on outcome-related objectives, especially increasing the number of people who survive 
  • Recognize that response is a push event; recovery is a pull event, and 
  • Develop pre-scripts or “play-books”

For more on this topic here’s a video of FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino explaining the “whole of Community” and “Maximum of Maximum” concepts. 

FEMA understands that volunteers and local organizations tend to know their communities well and are trusted leaders. As trusted leaders, volunteers can enhance the value of correct information and efforts in an effective and motivating manner in planning for and after a catastrophic event.  And, Extension has resources to help. As FEMA embraces the “whole community,” Extension can find a home in that community.

From a catastrophic event perspective, several lessons were derived from the workshop.

  1. The definition of long-term recovery in ESF 14 is restrictive. It can be expanded.
  2. States and communities will have to be strategic about which areas will recovery and redevelop.
  3. Communities that prepare for response will be better prepared to recover.
  4. Companies will be strategic about where they rebuild. Cooperation between the state and private sector will enhance community recovery.
  5. States can more quickly engage federal partners in the disaster response. Such response includes pre-scripted mission assignments for the federal and national partners.
  6. There will not be enough resources for the entire event, which will put pressure on local communities to respond and recover.
  7. If telecommunications capabilities exist immediately after the event, they may decline before recovery begins as generators run out of fuel and no fuel is delivered into the area.
  8. The role of neighborhood communities and volunteers is generally underdeveloped. Although they can be valuable assets, they are often overlooked and underused. Extension can help.
  9. Most, if not all, state  Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs) do not have adequate, if any, catastrophic plans. We are developing one in Indiana. When completed, I will share it. 
  10. A more complete vision of the 15 ESFs will help Extension communicate with emergency responders.
  11. I am convinced that developing Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COADs) is one of the most effective and efficient (low cost) ways to prepare our communities. COADs are often the local, community-based groups that resemble a state VOAD.