The term “whole community” is frequently used in preparedness materials and discussions. In practice, though, how often is the whole community represented and all community resources considered? Routine planning meetings and exercises use the same phone and email lists. The regular participants get to know each other and build beneficial relationships. The key players in the last emergency response prepare for the next response.
In a “whole community” effort, there are some key stakeholders and resources that should not be overlooked.
However, the standard phone and email lists and the contacts from the last response may not include other valuable community stakeholders and critical resources. Even during interagency meetings and exercises, it can be easy to get comfortable with the same names and faces. When emergencies and disasters occur, though, there are many others beyond those participants who could be leveraged for support and resources. Consider the stakeholders and resources that are not always included in whole community planning efforts. For example:
Tribal emergency management and rural stakeholders may have unique resources and different preparedness needs.
Volunteers have a lot to offer, but planning is needed to coordinate efforts and leverage their knowledge, skills, and resources. This includes Community Emergency Response Teams and general aviation.
The private sector includes critical communications capabilities and other valuable resources that may be underutilized when not included during the planning process.
Military personnel have life-saving skills that can be taught and applied to civilian mass casualty scenarios and emergency response efforts.
In general, whole community preparedness means involving key stakeholders in developing preparedness plans and procedures and ensuring that their roles and responsibilities are outlined in those plans. When key players are not involved or valuable resources are not recognized during the planning phase, gaps are realized during the response and recovery phases. For example, as COVID-19 spread, the need for new planning partners and new resources was realized. In addition, the capabilities and contributions of nontraditional partners were recognized.
With the many lessons from the past two years, now is the time to build resource capacity and look beyond the typical planning partners and resources. Before the next pandemic, school shooting, violent extremist attack, or natural disaster, identify unused or underutilized resources and invite new faces to the whole community planning table.