From small fire companies covering large areas of rural land to large fire departments covering highly populated urban cities, suburban fire departments are tasked with a mixture of both. One firefighter who has spent his career in a suburban fire department shares the five key lessons he has learned throughout his career.
There are moments during a disaster that something needs to be purchased. Depending on the nature of the purchase, it could be something small, perhaps something that can be purchased with a company credit card. On the other hand, it could be a purchase for millions of dollars and, not only do procurement laws come into play, but so could federal procurement laws if the organization is going to seek Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement after the disaster closes. In the moments of needing to spend large dollar amounts, the procurement office should be consulted, not because all purchases need to go through that office, but because they work year-round to establish relationships, contracts, and price lists with suppliers that could save time, money, and allow focus to be on the disaster at hand.
With communities around the globe feeling the effects of climate change, society must continue to prioritize initiatives that address its causes and impacts. For example, in mid-December 2021, 61 tornadoes formed in the central U.S. when such intense events are unusual, and Texas and Oklahoma saw a winter storm and freezing temperatures in February 2021. Additionally, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. experienced 20 major disasters in 2021 totaling $145 billion in damages and resulting in 688 deaths – ranking as the second-highest number of events, the third-highest cost, and the sixth highest deaths. Coupled with the continuation of high-powered storms with the rising costs of construction, labor, and materials, communities run the risk of entering an endless cycle of destruction and rebuilding.
School crisis response plans come in a variety of formats. Although the structure may vary, the content must include the essentials for the plan to be usable and effective. A basic school-based crisis response plan has seven key elements: organizing structure, communications system, accountability system, parent/student reunification, alternative location, equipment and supplies, and aftermath/recovery plan.
Collaboration between public entities and private companies is essential to prepare for disasters. However, current partnerships can be formal and cumbersome to the point of detriment, or impromptu and do little to achieve their goals. This unmet need to find appropriate partnership mechanisms could be addressed by the Harvard National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI)’s Predictable Surge framework, a model presented in Domestic Preparedness Journal in August 2019. It aims to inform an emergency manager’s understanding of the response ecosystem and productively engage potential private partners. This model has been further developed through a pilot with the Providence Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), located in Providence, Rhode Island, in the summer of 2021.
The proliferation of climate change, political strife, and general societal divisiveness is changing the nature of the work of emergency managers. The (ongoing) COVID-19 global pandemic, devastating hurricane and wildfire seasons, tenuous political situations, and broad unrest impact local communities in significant ways. Emergency managers are those who officials trust to lead response and recovery to this growing list of emergencies and disasters. They facilitate multi-agency responses to complex incidents, often serving in silence while providing critical backbone services.
Transportation security is the act of ensuring the protection and continued functioning of mobility systems for both people and commerce. It includes air, maritime, and all forms of surface transport. Transportation security is an enormous undertaking involving all government levels, the private sector, volunteer organizations, and the public. These organizations must work together to identify, prepare for, and respond to any threats or hazards that could affect the transportation infrastructure or the people and goods that travel within it.
In 2021, many questions have been raised about resilience. Is more known about resilience and have more leverage tools been retained to establish resilience at will than a decade ago? What ideas and notions were expected 10 years ago in energizing resilience tasks, activities, and operations? Has the leverage needed been acquired to apply proven strategies and operational systems for implementing post-disaster resilience with skill and confidence? Did a collective experience with mega-disasters since 2011 equip communities with new and innovative pathways to achieve resilience? The answers to these questions are far less than clear.
The study of Greek mythology can provide examples of failure to heed the call of emergency management specialists and experts. The story of Cassandra is an illustration of this warning. To win her favor, the Greek god Apollo gave her power to predict the future. However, once she received the gift, she refused further advances, angering Apollo. In retaliation, he cursed her with an additional power of an inability to convince anyone the predictions were true. For emergency managers and other related agencies, Cassandra has come to represent the challenges faced when trying to convince others that predicted events will happen.
The wildfire management community has made great strides incorporating new decision support tools into how it plans for and responds to wildfire incidents. Despite improvements in risk assessment and management at the incident scale, increasing fire activity and critical resource shortages reveal a system under strain in need of strategies that more efficiently allocate scarce resources across incidents while promoting the well-being of the firefighting workforce upon which the system relies. A scaled-up infusion of data-driven analysis and decision-making could enhance the performance of the entire wildfire management system.