Ready, Set, Prepare!

In the field of emergency management, preparedness planning focuses on the full spectrum of emergencies and disasters. Being prepared is everyone’s responsibility. Not just the government but private businesses, volunteer groups, neighborhood associations, and every individual citizen. It is something that needs constant time and attention, and is often overlooked because of many other demands and priorities. The optimistic hope is that an unexpected disruptive or devastating incident will never strike your community.  Unfortunately, sometimes it does.   Are you prepared?

At the 2018 Texas City Management Association Annual Conference, we heard first-hand testimony from city managers who experienced destruction from Hurricane Harvey.  Each account was different as preparedness is not a one-size fits all concepts. Every community is different, each with their own distinct demographics, resources, and interdependencies.  The common thread in their presentation was the incredible response they received, through both formal and informal channels, and from public servants who wanted to help their communities.

Building relationships beforehand is crucial in being prepared. It is important to build those partnerships between other local, state and federal partners, as well as local businesses and volunteer groups. Preparedness planning requires a continual commitment. It is a continual process, not a single action. Internal and external needs, resources, and capabilities change over time and need to be continuously evaluated. 

Effective communications within your city is critical. Can all departments talk to each other throughout a disaster? Social media has taken its place as an important tool for providing information before, during, and after disruptive events for agencies and organizations of all sizes. Consider using social media as a preparedness tool to engage the community.

Remember that emergency preparedness has a training and evaluation component. Although everything may look great on paper, training and exercises can help determine if your plan will be effective when put into action. This can help stakeholders better understand their capabilities and needs. Practice and training are an essential component of being prepared. Train your staff in National Incident Management System (NIMS), and bring them into the conversation so they understand what is expected of them during a disaster.

Know what resources you have within your city and what additional resources you may need and where to get them. Consider your organization’s plan for continuity of operations. Plan and document how your jurisdiction will continue to perform its essential functions following a disrupting event by making sure to identify personnel, facilities, and other resources needed to perform these core services. Identify essential services, and prioritize them based on their importance.

We tend to focus on the operational perspective of emergency management when it comes to preparing, mitigating, and planning for incidents. All too often we let the fiscal side of emergency management, including the recovery effort, become an afterthought. It is important that all city and organizational leaders remember that finance is part of all emergency management phases and we should be concerned with much more than just how to respond to disasters.

Keep in mind that emergencies start at the local level and failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

(Article submitted by Joni Clarke, City Manager, Lucas. If you have interesting news or helpful topics to share, please submit them to Kim Pendergraft at kim@tml.org.  Please keep the information to fewer than 750 words.)