From today’s FEMA Daily Digest Bulletin is an item related to FEMA’s FY 2018-2022 strategic plan. FEMA Administrator Brock Long is inviting stakeholders to provide input to their upcoming strategic plan update. They are doing this via IdeaScale, which is the same platform being used by DHS for an information campaign they promoted back in May of this year. I’ve been monitoring the submissions to the DHS campaign and unfortunately find that the vast majority of ideas submitted are crap. Many are ill informed (such as one idea of sending passenger baggage on a separate plane solely intended for that purpose) or politically motivated, with few offering any practical solutions to real problems.
Relative to the FEMA campaign, I’m seeing much of the same. Here’s what FEMA requested input on:
- How can FEMA simplify recovery programs and reduce disaster costs while ensuring accountability, customer service, and fiscal stewardship?
- How should risk be calculated in awarding grants?
- What type of grants are best suited for effectively reducing risk?
- How do we incentivize more investment in preparedness/mitigation prior to a disaster (not only federal investment)?
- How should the nation, including but not limited to FEMA, train and credential a surge disaster workforce ahead of major disasters?
- What are new ways to think about a true culture of preparedness?
Much of the input they are receiving thus far is less than helpful in the endeavor to drive strategic planning. Rather, they are receiving ideas of tactical applications both in general as well as specific to disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey. While some of these ideas aren’t bad (some are), it seems that people are missing the point.
This brings about some thoughts on the concept of whole community engagement, which is obviously what FEMA and DHS as a whole are trying to accomplish through these IdeaScale endeavors. I’m 100% in favor of whole community engagement, but opening the doors and inviting unstructured commentary is less than productive. I’m sure it’s frustrating to the people on the receiving end who are having to sift through a lot of largely irrelevant input to find a few gems. At the community level, these discussions can be moderated in public forums, but through an electronic means, it’s pretty much a free-for-all. A valiant effort, but I wonder if they are getting the input they really need or if this merely accomplishes them ‘checking a box’ to say they solicited whole community feedback.
While feedback from the public can be valuable, I posit that most of the public simply isn’t aware enough of the mission, organization, and activities of FEMA to provide meaningful ideas toward their strategic plan. Instead, forums such as the ones they’ve opened up simply provide opportunities for people to vent frustrations, which I suppose has some value but not in this forum.
What I’m hopeful of is that professionals in emergency management and public safety take advantage of the opportunity to provide thoughtful feedback and ideas which can contribute to FEMA’s strategic plan update. If they are making the effort to obtain feedback, let’s give them what they need. That’s my challenge to you!
© 2017 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP