We know that good emergency plans are the cornerstone of preparedness. Often times it is local governments that have difficulty putting quality plans in place because they don’t have knowledgeable personnel or funds available to make this happen. This gap is critical since we know that all disasters begin and end locally, so quality local plans are an imperative.
States provide financial assistance to local governments through a local allocation of the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG), which is an annual grant program through FEMA/DHS as a component of the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP). While there is always some variance in the goals or focus of EMPG, the overall concept and allowable costs are fairly static and the emphasis is always on preparedness.
Preparedness, however, encompasses a lot of activities. The best breakdown is POETE – Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training, and Exercising. Just from this we can see a lot of opportunity to spend money on a lot of needed activities. Planning, however, regularly needs to be revisited. While funding the other activities may be important, they mean very little without a quality, up to date plan. All preparedness activities should relate somehow back to the plan, such as equipment and training efforts to shore up capabilities identified for need through the planning process. This applies to everyone by the way – federal, state, and local governments; private sector; and not for profits.
How can states (or any other grant or budget managers) continue to emphasize the importance of planning? I’ve recently seen a best practice by the State of New Hampshire which is similar to the federal administration of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs. First, they make funds available for, and only for, planning. This includes new plans and plan updates. Once plans have been developed that meet their standards, then additional funds can be requested for supporting preparedness activities. This building block preparedness approach helps provide targeted funds solely for plan improvements while helping to ensure that subsequent funds are provided for activities that associate with the plan and addressing or identifying (by way of exercises) gaps. While it can be a bit cumbersome, I think it’s a great model for promoting preparedness the right way.
©2014 – Timothy Riecker