When the deadliest and most destructive storm of 2012 came pummeling through the Northeast - decimating homes, cutting power, downing communications, and ultimately killing close to 120 people on U.S. soil - states of emergencies were declared in nine states. The Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as state, tribal, and local responders had their work cut out in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
In early 2015, the entire city of Baltimore was overrun with rioters and the city was set ablaze. At least that is what the world saw on news reports. As devastating as the civil unrest was to a relatively small portion of the city, the situation was exacerbated by reports of "citywide" chaos and destruction.
Corporate confusion could spell disastrous response in a crisis. To dispel such confusion, companies should have an emergency manager on staff, ensure that employees are well prepared, and recognize that managing daily business operations is not the same as managing response and recovery operation after a disaster.
With Amtraks rail lines spanning communities across the United States (and parts of Canada), it is in a prime position to engage the whole community and to build national resilience. Planning, training, and educational efforts provide a way to bring employees, passengers, and other community stakeholders into the preparedness cycle.
Although the basic Incident Command System (ICS) is taught across emergency response disciplines, several shortcomings and constraints could lead to its downfall. Training for ICS is not a one-time occurrence, but should be an ongoing process of expanding knowledge, exercising skills, and passing on these abilities for the benefit of future generations.
In the fire service, it is time for leaders to think strategically, challenge long-held assumptions, and move beyond the "norm," to ensure that their communities are fully prepared for any emergency or incident they may encounter. This can be achieved through careful planning, effective communication, and extensive training.
The United States has built a solid foundation for emergency preparedness, which is based on the whole community concept of bringing together all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public. By working together and building strong leaders, the nation can withstand the many natural and human-caused incidents that may occur.
Disaster response involves the whole community. To support a united effort, leaders must build a network of trust, establish a history and habit of cooperation, and learn the goals and vulnerabilities of stakeholders. By asking a few key questions, leaders can expand the sphere of their preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.
by National Emergency Management Executive Academy Cohort III -
Many emergency management agencies provide valuable information to assist individuals within their communities to prepare for a variety of disasters. However, a method for measuring the success of such programs is needed to determine their effectiveness and to develop new programs to ensure community resilience.
The whole community concept has come a long way over the past five years, but it is time for the mission focus and community outreach to change with the changing needs of the target populations. To effectively make these changes, the effort will require establishing measurable benchmarks and creatively collaborating with the private sector.