Each year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready campaign recognizes September as National Preparedness Month. Agencies and organizations across the United States participate in this national preparedness effort by sharing educational resources, organizing events, and mobilizing action to help reduce risk and build community resilience. FEMA recognizes that, when individuals and communities prepare for any of the numerous potential threats they may face, the nation as a whole benefits.
For optimal effectiveness, these jurisdictional preparedness efforts should not be siloed. Joint planning teams can help integrate jurisdictional plans from various disciplines at all levels to build comprehensive plans and strategies focused on combating foreseeable and unforeseeable hazards, risks, and threats. Such integrated efforts would inform crisis management before a disaster, help protect lifeline sectors, and ensure continuity of operations following a disaster.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when preparing for a disaster. Initial efforts must target the communities they serve and expand from there. For example, effective law enforcement training for an active shooter incident could actually induce harm on other community stakeholders. Understanding the role that previous physical or psychological trauma plays in emergency preparedness and response would help close the preparedness gap.
Lifeline sectors, like the electric grid, pose many additional challenges as communities depend on them for everything from small daily tasks to life-saving interventions. If power were lost for an extended period, there would be cascading, widespread effects. Effective regulation, as well as adequate funding and support, from the federal level is needed now to ensure that communities fully comprehend the current threat environment and the effectiveness of current interventions.
As National Preparedness Month ends, the preparedness efforts at the local, state, and federal levels will continue. Although collaboration at all levels is crucial, contingencies must be in place to ensure continuity of operations at the local and state levels even when lack of collaboration itself is the threat. Whether faced with another massive hurricane or another extended government shutdown, individuals, corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies are reminded to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and continue to expect the unexpected.