Among all the information shared across the internet, something that would be of great assistance to many stakeholders is local hazard information. It surprises me how inaccessible this information is. Typically, in most places around the US, ‘local’ will mean a city, village, or town, and depending on the structure of government in the state, counties (or other similar governmental units) may also be considered local. Specific to this discussion, I’m referencing the most local level of government which has an emergency management function.
So often, we advise businesses and organizations to work with their local emergency managers on preparedness initiatives, yet necessary information lacks in availability or accessibility. One of the foundational elements of information for all emergency management activities is a hazard analysis. While every organization should conduct their own to ensure that their own hazards are identified and analyzed, an informed hazard analysis will consider information from other sources. What better source, we would assume, than the hazard analysis conducted at the most local level of government possible? Sadly, this information is not often regularly available.
Many governments who conduct comprehensive emergency management activities post plans on their websites, which is a good start. Often these are hazard mitigation plans and sometimes even emergency operations plans (EOPs). Both of these plans, if well written, should include hazard analysis information. Typically, if EOPs include this information, it’s a very brief summary, perhaps only a small chart or table. Hazard mitigation plans are really centered on a comprehensive hazard analysis, but as I’ve written before, most hazard mitigation plans are not truly ‘all hazard’. Most commonly, hazard mitigation plans only address and examine natural hazards and some human-caused incidents such as dam failures or hazardous materials incidents. Because so much effort goes into the hazard analysis conducted for a hazard mitigation plan, many jurisdictions will then only reference this hazard analysis in their preparedness activities, such as developing EOPs. Fundamentally, this then means that many jurisdictions are not properly preparing for other threats, such as an active shooter/hostile event response (ASHER) incident.
So there are really two issues here, one being that of making information readily available, the other is ensuring quality of information. Ideally, I’d like to see jurisdictions post hazard analysis information on their websites. People working for organizations or businesses who are less familiar with emergency management aren’t likely to read through a hazard mitigation plan to find this information. A stand-alone document with a reasonable summary of this information can easily be provided. Aside from organizations and businesses, such a practice would also make this information more accessible to the general public. With so much time and effort spent on telling people they need to prepare, perhaps we should make the information more accessible which tells them what they need to prepare for?
What are you doing to make hazard information more accessible?
© 2018 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP