Aside from the significant challenge of educating climate change deniers, climate change provides us with challenges of adaptation and resilience now and into the future. To meet this challenge, we need to meld various aspects of emergency management, science, engineering, theory, and some educated guesses to our applications. We are further challenged with certain preparedness activities which have always been difficult for us because of the less tangible and more dynamic nature of what we are dealing with. I wrote a few years ago on the difficulties we have in designing exercises for long-term recovery. That difficulty, along with the fact that recovery isn’t deemed as sexy as response, are why we rarely have exercises in set in the recovery phase of disaster. But how about exercises in the mitigation mission area?
Exercises focused on the mitigation mission area are also not commonplace, yet the application absolutely makes sense. Yes, we have science, engineering models, and historical data that help support hazard mitigation planning and other related tasks, but in emergency management we don’t seem to take the time to actually talk through some of the scenarios we may be faced with. Exercises help us not only to validate plans, but also help us to identify viable approaches for our plans.
Most people know climate change as an ethereal concept, something they hear about with increasing frequency, but don’t really understand what could happen in their own communities. They also likely view climate change as something too big for them to deal with. Climate change is no longer a theory of what may happen hundreds of years from now, rather it’s happening right now and we will see those impacts increase exponentially even within our own lifetimes. We need to make these discussions as commonplace as any other hazard (and actually WITH other hazards since climate change tends to exacerbate the frequency and impact of other hazards), and exercises offer an ideal structure for those discussions, helping to maintain focus and document outcomes in a consistent fashion.
To help support these efforts, FEMA has released the Long-Term Community Resilience Exercise Guide, along with a packet of reference documents from exercises around the nation which give some ideas on how this can be applied. These are available on the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) website and are another important tool available to us. From the HSEEP website, the Guide is intended to provide:
- A dictionary with common terms to ensure a shared understanding of climate-related terminology and principles before an exercise
- Tools and template for planning and conducting climate-focused exercises
- Resources including funding opportunities, risk assessments, and training programs
Now that the federal government is again allowed to use the term ‘climate change’, I’m hopeful we will see more resources made available. I also appreciate that FEMA is asking users to submit their best practices for using this new guide; which they will hopefully use to continue improvements and share with others.
© 2021 Timothy Riecker, CEDP