What is Your Emergency Management Agenda?

We often hear, usually through the media, the term ‘agenda’ thrown around, usually in relation to political parties, corporations, and the like.  I think it’s time that we each have an emergency management agenda.

First of all, this isn’t exclusive.  Everyone can have their own – local, county, state, and federal emergency management agencies, and emergency managers with private and not for profit entities.  I’d also argue that we need a national emergency management agenda – every nation should.  And perhaps even a global emergency management agenda.  Why?  We need deliberate, purpose driven direction.  Too often we are scattered, doing some recovery from the past few disasters, and some mitigation and preparedness projects then WHAM! we get hit with another disaster.  After the disruption from that disaster, we usually fall back into the same groove or make up a bunch of new things we think will solve all of our problems.  So much of what we do is knee-jerk, despite the planning efforts we spend so much time on.  I really think we can do much better.

Part of doing better is having some longer-term goals and implementations to achieve those goals.  That’s really what a programmatic agenda is all about.  Much of this parallels a strategic plan, but people often roll their eyes at strategic planning, either because they have no time for a complex process or they have been through enough cheesy group think strategic planning sessions in their careers.  Strategic planning may also not be practical for many emergency management shops which are one or two person entities, especially at a local or county level or within a small corporation or not for profit.  I’m not knocking strategic planning, it has a lot of value (if followed through), but formulating an agenda is generally simpler by necessity.

Let’s consider components of an agenda:

  • Purpose/goal – what is the big picture of what you want to accomplish? This is also your elevator pitch.  It should simply state what you want to accomplish, in realistic terms.  This is not lofty like your corporate mission or vision statement, this is a programmatic goal.
  • Who will participate – who are your internal and external stakeholders and partners? Consider all the people and entities you need cooperation from to make this happen.
  • Expected outcomes – what benchmarks do we want to achieve? Write these like objectives – remember SMART: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
  • Timeline – what is the timeline for each expected outcome and the goal itself? Set realistic timeframes.
  • Obstacles – what stands in our way of success internally and externally? Things like funding and personnel issues are obvious, but reach further while still being realistic.  Recognize that local disasters can be setbacks but can also create opportunity; and that many national-level disasters tend to result in politicians hitting a giant national reset button, changing the way we have been doing things (for better or worse) and stalling our momentum.

Of course this can all be revisited and adjusted as needed, but this agenda will help you lay the groundwork for future activities, giving you a path to follow instead of a series of ad-hoc activities.  Get it on paper and post it on the wall in your office where you will see it every day and can easily reflect on it, what it contains, and your progress in moving through it.

With that all said, I’m curious to know what the emergency management agenda is for the US (and every nation).  Yes, FEMA has a strategic plan, and while they are at the pointy end of the emergency management stick, they do not embody all that is emergency management.  Where do we, as professionals, see emergency management in this nation evolving to?  What do we (broadly) need to accomplish?  We tend to know the agendas of political parties and the politicians that are part of them, yet we don’t have a solid grasp on the direction of the emergency management enterprise.  Does this give you reason for concern?

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


2 thoughts on “What is Your Emergency Management Agenda?

  1. Where do we, as professionals, see emergency management in this nation evolving to?

    a. Constantly playing catch up. Examples are the Ebola scare, where there was supposedly a response mechanism in place, but political agendas threw the baby out with the bath water & attempted to “Re-invent the Wheel.”

    What do we (broadly) need to accomplish?

    a. We need a truly National EM Plan for the top threats we are facing & then that National Plan needs to echo down to LGUs. Thought this was so in all of the training I have taken, but reality is completely different. It is ALL about politics.

    We tend to know the agendas of political parties and the politicians that are part of them, yet we don’t have a solid grasp on the direction of the emergency management enterprise. Does this give you reason for concern?

    a. For an example, just look at the mess called the National Capitol Region (NCR). Multiple entities all going in different directions, all trying to be the lead element (budgets), & egos the size of King Kong. I would hate to be there when/if we have a WMD incident there on a catastrophic scale. Just imagine the evacuation nightmare alone? Couple in the response & start ordering more body bags. I wrote the HA/DR plan for an installation in Japan based on the potential Tokai Earthquake & conservative figures of casualties were something like 380,000 for one prefecture, 9.5 million evacuees, etc., so just imagine the cost in both human, infrastructure & personnel to the NCR…& we are still expanding upon the place instead of moving operations to somewhere like the central geographical point of the lower 48 states of the U.S. (Lebanon, Kansas). You could make similar comparisons for any major city, earthquake zone, or even a sports stadium filled to capacity.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Politics plays a huge part in EM. Much more than it should, in my opinion. Each administration, within their own right, changes personnel and priorities of key entities, which stalls progress. While the new people and priorities have certainly brought us positive change, I’m left wondering what the cost of that change has been. I’ve referenced several times John Morton’s book Next Generation Homeland Security. His historical detail of the changes that administrations have made through the years is simply insane and often nonsensical. Having a consistent national agenda for EM will help in this.

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