Disaster support often conjures the image of boots-on-the-ground responders providing aid to survivors on scene. However, disaster support involves so much more that is accomplished at each phase of the disaster management cycle. These efforts include creating codes and standards, building a workforce, providing financial aid, and offering psychological support.
Since 1998, DomPrep authors and readers have touted the need to prepare for disasters. There is a consensus among preparedness, response, and resilience professionals that forethought is the key to community resilience following a disaster. The desire to prepare is demonstrated through action: innumerable studies and best practices have been written, trainings and exercises have been conducted, and equipment purchases have been made. However, planning documents, practice scenarios, and more resources are not enough. Preparedness needs to be a mindset that stakeholders embrace daily.
To take a multidisciplinary, multijurisdictional approach to disaster preparedness and response, agencies and organizations must connect both in person and virtually. Mutual aid agreements enable agencies to share resources and develop a collaborative strategy for addressing emerging threats. Although predicted by experts, the threats that presented over the past year – namely, a global pandemic and large-scale cyberattacks on critical infrastructure – still caught many communities by surprise.
With all the thought, planning, and training that go into disaster preparedness efforts, communities theoretically should be ready for any threat and hazard that they face regularly – severe storms, wildfires, hurricanes, power outages, earthquakes, droughts, mudslides, etc. However, that is not always true. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has already recorded 37 declared disasters in various states so far in 2021. Governors often request federal assistance when their states’ resources are insufficient to adequately respond to disasters.
Information flow is the process of efficiently moving information within and between jurisdictions and systems for the purpose of communicating, making decisions, and establishing policies and procedures. Whether preparing for, responding to, or recovering from a disaster, information flow is a determining factor in the success of any of these efforts.
For more than 20 years, DomPrep has promoted the lessons learned and best practices of agencies and organizations that have managed various disasters. There is so much valuable advice that can be gleaned from such reviews. For example, reviewing past events is critical for learning how to avoid previous preparedness and response pitfalls. However, as lessons learned and best practices are being incorporated into current plans, these plans need to be regularly reviewed and modified to take into consideration innovative solutions and technological advances. Simply responding to a current disaster by doing what should have been done during the last disaster would lead to missed opportunities for building community resilience.
One of the most critical yet least understood core emergency management capabilities is planning, which reduces the chaos present during a disaster. However, the emergency management community is awash in various planning systems, various types of plans, and confusing terminology that complicates the work. This often causes problems when emergency managers are tasked to lead new planning efforts, to update existing plans, and to adapt them to real-life emergencies. Eleven tips and tricks can help solve these problems.
In 2020-2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that a public health emergency is not solely a public health problem. A multi-discipline, multi-jurisdictional effort is needed to overcome the numerous challenges that communities face. It is not good enough to create lessons learned and best practices if no subsequent actions are taken. DomPrep needs your input on COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts by taking the Pandemic Planning 2021 survey. There is also a comment field for you to add any additional comments/suggestions, lessons learned, best practices, etc.
A decade before COVID-19 emerged as a pandemic, emergency preparedness, response, and resilience professionals were focused on infectious diseases. The H1N1 (swine flu), H5N1 (avian flu), and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreaks were real, and lessons needed to be learned in preparation for something bigger. So, in April 2010, DomPrep polled the experts (i.e., DomPrep advisors and readers) to gather their thoughts on pandemic preparedness and response. A decade later, their responses are haunting.
Over the past 20 plus years, I have been perplexed and bewildered why leaders both in government and industry have not taken preparedness seriously. A while ago, it was explained to me. It all comes down to cost-benefit analysis. Leaders love to present bright, shiny new things to their constituents, shareholders, customers, media, and so on. Let’s face it, preparedness is boring! For example, weatherizing power plants in warm environments is not economical nor exciting. Or is it? By kicking the can, leaders hope that unpleasant, yet predictable once-in-a-hundred-years events do not happen on their watch. Cost-benefit analysis matters a lot when those unforeseen events happen. And these types of events have been occurring more and more frequently lately with great cost through loss of life, sociological-psychological impact, and loss of revenue.