The fifth National Preparedness Report has been released by FEMA. The National Preparedness Report is based upon, as the report states, input of more than 450 data sources and 190 stakeholders, including 66 non-federal organizations (which would account for state preparedness report submissions and information from Urban Area Security Initiative regions). The report is intended as a summary of where the nation stands in regard to each of the 32 Core Capabilities outlined in the National Preparedness Goal.
As mentioned, this is the fifth National Preparedness Report to hit the streets. While they have some value and demonstrate that the data collection that is done is actually collated, I feel that through the years they are offering less meat and more potatoes. I appreciate the highlighting of best practices for each mission area, but, to me, there is a missed opportunity if a report is simply providing data and not recommendations. While it’s understood that the goal of the National Preparedness Report is not to provide recommendations (it would also take longer to publish the report, and the people pulling the data together do not likely have the expertise to create recommendations), I’d like to see FEMA (and stakeholders) have follow up efforts to provide recommendations in each mission area and not miss this valuable opportunity to then apply the findings and look forward.
Below, I’ve included their overall findings with a bit of my own commentary. Overall, I will say that there is nothing eye opening in this report for anyone who pays attention. It’s pretty easy to guess those Core Capabilities which are at the top and those which are at the bottom.
- Planning; Public Health, Healthcare, and Emergency Medical Services; and Risk and Disaster Resilience Assessment are the three Core Capabilities in which the Nation has developed acceptable levels of performance for critical tasks, but that face performance declines if not maintained and updated to address emerging challenges.
- My commentary: BULLSHIT. If these Core Capabilities are at ‘acceptable levels’, then our standards must be pretty low. Planning is the one that disturbs me most. We continue to see plenty of poor plans that are not realistic, can’t be operationalized, and are created to meet requirements (which are typically met by formatting and buzzwords). Have we improved? Sure. But I wouldn’t say we are at ‘acceptable levels’. As for Public Health, Healthcare, and Emergency Medical Services, we are struggling in certain areas to simply keep our heads above water. While we are fairly solid in some areas of public health, one only needs to look at the Ebola incident to view how fragile our state of readiness is. The findings for Planning and Public Health, to me, are nothing but shameful pandering and we need to get realistic about where we are at and the challenges we face. Gold stars won’t stand up to the next disaster. As for Risk and Disaster Resilience Assessment I have admittedly less experience personally. I do know that we have some pretty incredible tools available that can help us determine impacts of various hazards for any given area under a variety of conditions, which is an amazing application of technology. My concerns here are that there are still many who don’t know about these tools, don’t use them, and/or don’t follow the findings of information from these tools in their hazard mitigation actions.
- Cybersecurity, Economic Recovery, Housing, and Infrastructure Systems remain national areas for improvement. Two additional Core Capabilities – Natural and Cultural Resources, and Supply Chain Integrity and Security – emerged as new national areas for improvement.
- My commentary: NO KIDDING. While we have made a great deal of progress on Cybersecurity, we are still far behind the criminal element in most respects. It also needs to be fully recognized in the National Preparedness Goal that Cybersecurity is a Core Capability common to all five mission areas. Economic Recovery will always be a challenge, as every community impacted by an incident has a certain way it heals, essentially along the lines of Maslow’s Hierarchy. A strong local economy is important to this healing, ensuring that the community has access to the resources it needs to rebuild and a return to normalcy. While I’m sure studies have been done, we need to examine more closely how the economic recovery process evolves after a disaster to identify how it can be best supported. Housing is the absolutely most challenging Core Capability in the National Preparedness Goal. While I don’t have a solution for this, I do know that our current approaches, philosophies, and ways of thinking haven’t moved us an inch toward the finish line on this one. We need to change our current way of thinking to be successful. As for Infrastructure Systems, I could go on for days about this. I’ve written previously, several times, (as have many others) on the critically fragile state of our infrastructure. It’s no big secret.
- States and territories continue to be more prepared to achieve their targets for Response Core Capabilities, while they are least prepared to meet their targets in the Recovery Mission Area.
- This is another NO KIDDING. While we must always have a greater focus on Response, as that’s where lives are saved and the immediate danger is addressed, we can’t lose sight of Recovery. Some recovery activities are more clear cut than others, and FEMA often muddies the waters more by inadvertently intimidating state and local governments when it comes to disaster recovery, as the focus becomes centered more on reimbursable activities vs doing what needs to be done. The report included some interesting findings (take a look in the Recovery Mission Area drop down on the web site) on ‘mixed trends in exercising recovery capabilities’. Again, this is nothing earth shattering, but it’s nice to see the matter addressed. Yes, we clearly need to exercise Recovery Mission Area Core Capabilities better and more often.
These reports are always worth looking through, even though much of the information is generally known by those of us in the profession. There are always little nuggets of learning available, and data from the report may be used to support your own endeavors for additional funding or resources for your own program.
As always, I’m interested in your insights and thoughts on this post and the National Preparedness Report.
© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP
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