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Saturday, July 13, 2024

COLUMN: Realistic Preparedness Part II: Community Preparedness

If you haven’t already, see last week’s column titled: Part 1:  Realistic Individual Preparedness before reading on.

In emergency management we know that all disasters are local.  We say it all the time.  But it is more than a slogan.  It is more than dogma.  It is even more than geography.  It is a humble understanding that the lives and property impacted by every disaster will have lasting second and third order effects long after the federal and state governments have gone.  It is an appreciation that the community is the face, the lead, the center and the fulcrum for every disaster.  So, it makes sense that the community also spearheads preparedness efforts. 

The math is simple – the more prepared the community is, the easier the response and recovery will be.  But the work is not simple.  Like all things, success relies on time, money, resources, and someone to lead the way.  It is easy for someone on the outside to suggest, simply, just do a, b, and c.  But in reality, it is not simple.  And not all efforts are realistic. 

Fortunately, there are many realistic things that communities can do.  In fact, many communities are already doing them.  I read somewhere that the wheel was invented in the 4th millennium BC.  We no longer need to reinvent the wheel.  We also do not need to reinvent preparedness.  Most of the work has been done.  There is no plagiarism to being prepared.  Many of the links that follow can be a cut and paste to a more prepared community. 

Whole Community   

It helps to remember that you are never alone.  Success builds upon the whole community working together.   Start by identifying you community’s barriers to and gaps in preparedness.  Is someone missing from the table?  It helps to connect all community members to lifelines and services.  Share emergency management information that resonates with your community.  Learn about your local emergency management system. Assess the needs and capabilities of each group within the community.  Consider demographics, culture, and approach each other with humility and an open hand.   

Champion  

The most realistic and successful community preparedness programs are led by a champion.  Someone who stood up and said, “Why not me?”  A few years ago, the White House honored eighteen individuals who brought their communicates together to be better prepared and make a difference.  Those champions came from different parts of the community and yours can as well:   Healthcare organizations.   Institutions of education and higher learning.  Organizations that promote and support economic development.  Disability advocacy organizations.  Faith-based organizations.  Community volunteer groups.  Housing organizations and local shelters.  Food and agriculture organizations.  Anyone can take the lead to bring others together.  And if you are that person in your community, there is plenty of help at your fingertips. 

Follow by Example 

When you lead by example, you can also follow by example.  You don’t need to start with a blank slate.  There are countless examples to follow at the state, Be Ready Utah big city, Prepare San Diego and  Philadelphia’s ReadyCommunity county,  Pitt County, NC Preparedness for Seniors and Caregivers  small city, City of Bartlett, TN and town levels,  Town of Apple Valley   And these are just a small sample.  Search for more examples similar to the size, geography, and demographics of your community.  Most of these have plans, templates, checklists, and more that they are happy to share.   

Tag Along    

If you have never run or hosted any preparedness or safety campaigns or awareness weeks, try to start by tagging along with one already established in your state.  You can find by a comprehensive list of these events, searchable by state, at the National Weather Service.  It is much easier to join a campaign than generate one from scratch. 

Seek Volunteers   

We are seeing more and more people volunteer to help their community.  Tap into them.  FEMA lists many examples of neighborhood and community volunteers you can explore.  Often states and communities will publish similar opportunities for volunteers to help in community preparedness.   You do not even have to worry about how to train them.  FEMA offers training and education resources for that as well.   The Association of State and Territory Health Officials has created a robust Emergency Volunteer Toolkit.  When you leverage all of these resources, the task becomes easier and more realistic.  Pursue retirees who seek to provide meaningful experience.  Look for young people who are building resumes.  And think about where these group gather and what media/social media they follow in your community to reach them. 

Educate the Community 

FEMA also provides posters and visual products – free of charge – for more than a dozen threats and hazards at Protective Actions Research .  They include  free downloadable graphics that you can print with or without the FEMA logos as well as with or without your own logo.  One such example is a flyer on how your community can be prepared for a cyberattack .   You don’t need to research, be an expert, or even design the visual.  Just print and post.  Now, THAT is realistic. 

When you work with the whole community, embrace a champion for the cause, follow and use the work of others, you can save time, money, and effort while building community preparedness in a meaningful and realistic manner. 

Dan Stoneking is the Owner and Principal of Stoneking Strategic Communications and the Author of Cultivate Your Garden: Crisis Communications from 30,000 Feet to Three Feet.   

author avatar
Dan Stoneking
Dan is a strategic communicator. He is a writer. His expertise is born from experience, to include his role at the Pentagon upon the attacks of 9/11; as lead spokesperson for the National Guard in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina where he represented 54 states and territories; responding to the earthquake in Haiti where he helped establish the first-ever international joint information center; creating a coalition with the private sector to implement the first-ever National Business Emergency Operation Center; voluntarily deploying to Puerto Rico within hours of Hurricane Maria’s impact as the lead spokesperson, and much more. Presently, Dan is the Owner and Principal at Stoneking Strategic Communications, LLC as well as the Founder and Vice President of the Emergency Management External Affairs Association, and an Adjunct Professor for Public Speaking at West Chester University. Previously, Dan served as the External Affairs Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 3, where he led an award-earning passionate team to improve information sharing and coordination between FEMA and the American public, to include media, private sector, as well as local, state and government officials during disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts. As Director, he led his team through countless disasters, the Papal Visit (2015), the Democratic National Convention (2016), and the response to the Jan 6, 2021, attacks on our Nation’s Capital. That position followed and built upon a career in both the corporate and government arenas focused on strategic and crisis communications, to include roles at FEMA Headquarters as Director, Private Sector and Deputy and Acting Director of Public Affairs. Graduating from the University of New Hampshire, with a Bachelor’s in Interpersonal Communications, he later returned to the same campus and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching (Secondary English). Dan is a retired Army Officer and he taught High School English for two years. He is also the author of Cultivate Your Garden: Crisis Communications from 30,000 Feet to Three Feet, 2024. Dan lives in West Chester, PA with his daughters, Ivy Grace and Chloe Lane and their puppy, Fiji Isabella.
Dan Stoneking
Dan Stoneking
Dan is a strategic communicator. He is a writer. His expertise is born from experience, to include his role at the Pentagon upon the attacks of 9/11; as lead spokesperson for the National Guard in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina where he represented 54 states and territories; responding to the earthquake in Haiti where he helped establish the first-ever international joint information center; creating a coalition with the private sector to implement the first-ever National Business Emergency Operation Center; voluntarily deploying to Puerto Rico within hours of Hurricane Maria’s impact as the lead spokesperson, and much more. Presently, Dan is the Owner and Principal at Stoneking Strategic Communications, LLC as well as the Founder and Vice President of the Emergency Management External Affairs Association, and an Adjunct Professor for Public Speaking at West Chester University. Previously, Dan served as the External Affairs Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 3, where he led an award-earning passionate team to improve information sharing and coordination between FEMA and the American public, to include media, private sector, as well as local, state and government officials during disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts. As Director, he led his team through countless disasters, the Papal Visit (2015), the Democratic National Convention (2016), and the response to the Jan 6, 2021, attacks on our Nation’s Capital. That position followed and built upon a career in both the corporate and government arenas focused on strategic and crisis communications, to include roles at FEMA Headquarters as Director, Private Sector and Deputy and Acting Director of Public Affairs. Graduating from the University of New Hampshire, with a Bachelor’s in Interpersonal Communications, he later returned to the same campus and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching (Secondary English). Dan is a retired Army Officer and he taught High School English for two years. He is also the author of Cultivate Your Garden: Crisis Communications from 30,000 Feet to Three Feet, 2024. Dan lives in West Chester, PA with his daughters, Ivy Grace and Chloe Lane and their puppy, Fiji Isabella.

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