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Tips: Build Community Disaster Awareness for Successful Plan Activation

Community Wide Disaster Preparedness

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Part of disaster preparedness includes creating a community culture of disaster awareness. While this begins internally with city or county emergency management, the entire local government organization – including elected officials – must be involved in community capacity and awareness building during disaster planning. This allows for successful emergency management services plan activation. Suggestions for local government organizations to build community capacity and awareness include the following:

Encourage a wide range of government stakeholders to engage with and obtain NIMS training certifications as part of pre-disaster planning.

  • These stakeholders can include:
    • Emergency management, fire, rescue, and law enforcement.
    • As many local government officials as possible, including the city manager or county administrator, the chief elected official, the elected governing body, and department heads and managers.
  • NIMS training will help the stakeholders understand the pitfalls of inadequate plan activation.

Define clear lines of responsibility, chain of command, and resources needed to adequately activate the plan.

  • Ensure these details are outlined in the EOP, and that stakeholders have a firm understanding of their individual responsibilities and how they fit into the disaster response team.

Assess overall preparedness and the city’s ability to activate the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

  • This can be accomplished using a formal report or through a tabletop discussion with all stakeholders.

Hold pre-disaster planning exercises using response and recovery scenarios.

  • Focus scenarios on the types of perils most likely to occur in your community.
  • Hold scenarios quarterly or at least bi-annually.
  • Scenario participants should be representative of the whole community – such as NGOs, business leaders and faith-based groups – in addition to emergency management, police, law enforcement, firefighters, and any other agencies needed to carry out plan activation.
  • Keep the preparedness and training conversation going as a common theme among municipal staff.

Keep lines of communication with the community open.

  • Tell a story to the community following exercises to build and maintain public confidence regarding disaster readiness for your plan activation. Provide coverage of disaster training exercises in local media outlets, as well as on the City’s website and social media accounts.

Address weaknesses detected or experienced during plan exercises.

  • This alleviates the potential for troubling disaster plan activation outcomes, which are the mark of ineffective city management, county management, or elected officials.

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