The National Preparedness Report (NPR) was published by the US Department of Homeland Security at the end of March. It is a requirement of PPD-8 and is intended to provide an annual report summarizing the nation’s progress on various preparedness measures as they are identified through the core capabilities. The data for the NPR is derived from state preparedness reports where the states self assess their confidence and progress in each of these core capabilities. While the results shown in the report are reflective of a national snap-shot, they may or may not be reflective of the state of preparedness in any given community around the nation. That said, reviewing the NPR provides a good opportunity to consider the state of preparedness in your own community.
As the chairperson of the VOAD in my area, I wanted to share the information contained in the NPR with our member agencies and organizations but wanted to target specific capabilities and data points to show direct relevance to our collective mission. This was fairly easy to do since the core capabilities largely define many of the objectives we want to achieve or sustain through our partnerships. Below are some of the core capabilities I chose to share with our membership. These are relevant in every community across the nation. How does your community rate?
The NPR identifies this as a strength that continues to trend upward nationally. This is a core capability directly related to the formation of VOADs and other similar groups. It is defined as ‘…engaging with whole community partners… to strengthen community preparedness.’ This type of community engagement is a proven advantage not only in theUS, but across the globe. The more organizations and people that can be reached result in better preparedness for the community. Unfortunately, despite the national push we’ve experienced for the formation of entities such as VOAD and Citizen Corps, the vast majority of communities across the nation don’t have them in place. Does yours? If not, why not?
Identified by the NPR as an area that still needs improvement despite progress. Likely because this capability is very comprehensive – body recovery, victim identification, coordination with state and local authorities for temporary mortuaries, sharing information with mass care services (a task handled by many community organizations) for the purposes of reunifying family members and caregivers with missing persons/remains, and proving counseling services to the bereaved (another heavy task for community organizations). A mass fatality incident also represents the worst case scenario for communities and is difficult to pull together a comprehensive plan for. Given this, there exists a huge planning gap for fatality management. It is a capability that must be planned for and thoroughly exercised. There are a number of resources found on both the open internet as well as LLS to aid in planning. Consider reaching out to communities that have been unfortunate enough to deal with a mass fatality incident – they usually assemble a model plan based upon their lessons learned.
Mass Care Services
The NPR states that ‘Public and private partners providing mass care have the resources to support feeding and hydration needs of survivors following a catastrophic event, but distribution of these resources presents challenges.’ All the more reason to strengthen our private partnerships and strive for strong private sector participation with emergency management preparedness efforts and with community groups such as VOAD and Citizen Corps.
Public and Private Sector Resources
Similar to the statements made in the NPR on Mass Care Services, whole community stakeholders have a demonstrated ability to provide for commodities such as meals, water, generators, blankets, cots, medical equipment and medications, as the NPR states. Most communities certainly have the right private sector resources (big box stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) to accomplish this but it still require the formation and maintenance of strong partnerships between government and non government organizations to determine needs, obtain the resources, and distribute them to the public. Consider memorandums of understanding with private sector partners and engage them and their employees in your planning efforts.
If area farms, business, and industry can’t get back on their feet, the community can’t recover. The NPR identifies some progress in this area. Concepts of COOP are catching on and are being reinforced in various industry standards (the ISO just released their updated preparedness standards). There is a great opportunity for partnership, outreach, and education of the private sector in terms of preparedness activities. Additionally, while government is often times resistant to provide direct assistance to private entities, the benefits of getting a community grocery store cleaned up or access to a generator so they can re-open has a major impact on the community recovering. Remember, the private sector has a lot at stake in the event of a disaster… it impacts their business facilities and operations, supply lines, employees, and customers. Community partnerships will benefit them as well.
Perhaps the largest shortfall nationally. It seems that no one has the capabilities to deal with long-term housing issues. While Federal assistance is sometimes available, we must keep in mind that all disasters begin and end locally… so the care of the community is left to community organizations in the end.
Further information on PPD8 and the NPR can be found at http://www.fema.gov/prepared/ppd8.shtm.