In emergency planning efforts, there is much debate about whether to plan for the worst and scale down, or plan for current threats and scale up. Of course, in complex systems, small changes in initial conditions can have profound effects. By considering larger, low-frequency events, communities can overcome this challenge and be better prepared for disasters of all sizes.
When Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast in 2012, its effects were devastating. The storm left a trail of destruction that affected 24 states, killing 159 people, costing $70.2 billion in damage, and leaving millions without power. Yet, in the wake of this terrible disaster, there was a new source of hope: A group of young AmeriCorps members working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) newly launched FEMA Corps assisted the recovery effort.
The FEMA Corps Program is the result of a revolutionized partnership between the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Established in 2012, FEMA Corps falls under the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps umbrella. Its members travel across the country assisting FEMA and its partners with disaster preparedness, response, and recovery initiatives.
No organization, or government, can solve every problem. There will always be a crisis that will require an emergency response. And fundamental to the success of that response will be the public’s reaction. Emergency managers can react and can mobilize, but they will not be successful unless they do so in such a way as to ensure the public trust. This was apparent in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, which was a crisis of government.
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the National Response Framework are very important and overall well-constructed documents despite some past failures related to their implementation. However, one common denominator in disaster failures or successes is the people involved and the education and training of those personnel. Although federal mandates provide requirements for an initial certification, to date, no required refresher training exists. This article analyzes reasons that the NIMS Incident Command System (ICS) annual recertification should be required to maintain NIMS compliance.
The lack of core capability guidance diminishes counties’ levels of preparedness and resilience and is a barrier to increasing these efforts for the nation as a whole. By using community associations as force multipliers, counties can leverage this valuable resource to increase resilience-building efforts beginning at the local level. This bottom-up approach builds not only physical but social resilience at all levels.
The hurricane season and reports of disease outbreaks – domestically and abroad – serve as reminders that there are several threats that communities face at the same time. Creating resilient communities requires an understanding that communities contend with competing priorities, and must find ways to harness their existing strengths to improve their preparedness and response capabilities.
As interdependencies between and among critical infrastructure sectors and the potential for cascading effects increase, communities must be able to recover and adapt to new normals. One organization incorporates research to help enhance communication between sectors by identifying and addressing research gaps. As threats evolve, communities with a solid framework for resilience are better prepared to update plans and adapt to new normals.
As in any community, a solid network of partnerships is needed to address the specific needs of its community members. Native American and Alaska Native populations span the nation, but face similar preparedness challenges. To address resilience gaps, a public-private sector collaborative approach was used to create a tool as a foundational document for community outreach by tribal stakeholders, as well as tribal emergency managers and others to train new staff.
Increased focus on insider threats has resulted in greater attention to background screening and automated methods to assist the vetting process for initial and continued access to secure facilities and classified information. Recent technology applications can provide investigators with an ever-increasing variety of data for screening and continued vetting. Applying this model to homeland security and emergency management, however, presents broader cultural issues, including information privacy and interoperability.