PREPAREDNESS FOR EMERGENCY RESPONSE, RECOVERY, AND RECONSTRUCTION
Preparedness is the process of turning awareness of the natural hazards and risks faced by a community into actions that improve its capability to respond to and recover from disasters. Recent disasters, such as the tornadoes that struck Saragosa, Texas, in May 1987, illustrate the destructive potential of natural hazards and the long-term societal disruption that is felt well beyond the boundaries of the communities that are directly affected. The onset of a natural disaster can be sudden; recovery and reconstruction may take years and even decades.
Emergency response is rapidly evolving. (See Table 2.) Prior to the 1985 Mexico earthquake, for example, search and rescue was seldom a part of community response plans; it is a major intergovernmental initiative today. Advances in warning and communications technology in the United States provide new opportunities for emergency responders. Mobile and cellular telephones, donated by industry, were instrumental in coordinating the Loma Prieta earthquake response. Perhaps the greatest change in response planning and practice in the past decade, though, has been the integration of new groups and disciplines. In addition, the federal government has become more active in response planning, and business and industry are taking more responsibility for augmenting community emergency response capabilities. The Decade can build on these technological developments and cooperative trends.
It is not only built structures that are threatened by natural hazards. Damage to natural resources may have great economic and environmental impacts — for example, when an earthquake ruptures a pipeline that spills oil into marine and estuarine systems or a wildfire destroys a major forest. Natural resources should be fully covered in emergency preparedness plans.
Preparedness plans need to address not just the immediate response, but also the longer-term recovery and reconstruction. The recovery process is multifaceted and complex. A systematic approach would reduce human hardship; yet, typically, the process is improvised. Moreover, there is relatively little analysis or documentation of successful community recovery and reconstruction efforts. The recovery phase is an opportune time for local leadership to reexamine community goals, select recovery strategies that are compatible with revised goals, and incorporate mitigation measures into both long-range planning and immediate decision-making.
The Committee recommends that by the end of the Decade, every business and local jurisdiction at significant risk have plans for emergency response, recovery, and reconstruction that have been tested and coordinated with state and federal governments as well as with other local governments.
To achieve this goal, the Committee proposes that:
the federal government help state and local governments assess and improve their preparedness planning capabilities and expand planning efforts to incorporate recovery and reconstruction,
demonstration projects be initiated in selected cities throughout the nation to showcase regional models and preparedness programs, and
studies be undertaken that address interorgani-
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES A DECADE MAKE? A survey conducted in Southern California between 1976 and 1979 (Ralph Turner, Joanne M. Nigg, and Denise Heller Paz) concluded that “most households are unprepared for an earthquake.” A similar survey conducted approximately 10 years later (James Goltz and Linda B. Bourque) showed significantly higher levels of preparedness. During the intervening years, public interest in preparedness was galvanized by the eruption of Mount Saint Helens and several large earthquakes in the United States and abroad. Capitalizing on this interest, local, state, and federal governments created programs to promote preparedness for a major earthquake.
TABLE 2. PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS TAKEN BY LOS ANGELES COUNTY RESIDENTS 1979-1989
a Calculated for homeowners only
b Calculated for respondents with dependent children only.
zational decision-making in an emergency, information flow and exchange, and identification of factors critical to emergency management decision-making.
A program for enhancing the nation's preparedness capabilities should include:
Assessment of needs and capabilities. In cooperation with other federal agencies, FEMA should assist state and local jurisdictions in assessing community awareness, training, and preparedness. State and local emergency planners will need several tools for such an evaluation: a self-assessment mechanism for determining the strengths and weaknesses of current emergency response planning; a model community asset inventory to identify the human and material resources available or missing; guidelines for assigning response, recovery, and reconstruction responsibilities; a model emergency response exercise guide; and recovery and reconstruction planning guidelines, checklists, and model plans. These tools should be adapted for use by business and industry, schools, hospitals, correctional facilities, and neighborhood organizations. Videotapes, slide presentations, workshops, and brochures should be developed for this purpose.
The federal government should also support interdisciplinary teams to assist communities directly in preparedness for response, recovery, and reconstruction. For example, flood-, wildfire-, and earthquakeprone communities would benefit from the advice of a team of urban planners, geologists, soil scientists, environmental engineers, structural engineers, city administrators, and communications specialists. Such a program should emphasize direct field assistance by experienced teams that can tailor their expertise to a community's needs.
Training for response, recovery, and reconstruction. Many individuals responsible for local disaster management have limited training in the field and need increased access to training programs and materials. Interdisciplinary, multijurisdictional training is especially valuable because it encourages mutual understanding and lays the foundation for cooperation in emergencies. Nongovernmental agencies should be included in this program.
The federal government should take the lead in developing a national training program. FEMA's National Emergency Training Center (NETC), located in Emmitsburg, Maryland, should be a focal point
for developing courses that incorporate the lessons from recent disasters and for identifying additional research needs. It would also be beneficial to examine federal, state, and local training programs, compile a database of good programs, and disseminate information on their availability. Mechanisms are needed to promote broader access to preparedness training, including additional funding for attendance at NETC and traveling training courses. Universities throughout the nation should continue to develop courses.
The Decade offers an opportunity for trainers to work with their counterparts from other countries. International sharing of materials and experience will improve course content to the benefit of all participants. By supporting regional centers abroad, the United States can increase the number of participants who take advantage of training adapted to their situations.
Specialized training is also needed. For example, search and rescue is a highly specialized emergency function that requires coordination among several disciplines. Training programs need to be developed for emergency responders, construction personnel, medical specialists, and volunteers. Training modules, courses, and standards should be developed for professional and volunteer urban search-and-rescue personnel and private heavy-equipment operators. A basic self-help program for community groups needs to be developed and made available nationwide. Health service managers and medical personnel would benefit from training in both initial handling and treatment of the injured and hospital management of mass casualties.
Training programs to enhance recovery and reconstruction should be developed and delivered. Professional associations such as the American Planning Association, the American Institute of Architects, and the American Society of Civil Engineers could be partners in developing a national training curriculum that focuses on recovery and reconstruction policy, strategies, and options. Training programs should provide guidance on priorities for the restoration of services, assessment of damage, policy and procedures for reentry of damaged structures, debris removal, and other immediate recovery issues.
Long-term reconstruction goals are equally important. Community-based training programs should be designed to bring together city administrators, elected officials, urban planners, finance specialists, engi-
neers, and contractors, all of whom are in a position to shape land-use policy and the reconstruction process. Mitigation opportunities should be featured in a national training initiative to facilitate reconstruction after a disaster.
Improving coordination and communication. There is no substitute for predisaster planning and practice. When a disaster strikes, it is essential that government, business and industry (particularly utility companies), and volunteer groups have tested the plans and procedures that will guide them. Further, coordination depends on operable communications systems. Facsimile machines and cellular telephones have considerable potential for this purpose.
Pre-event agreements between local jurisdictions and telecommunications companies can facilitate emergency assistance and restoration of service. For example, state and federal governments should consider signing contracts for the provision of satellite communication links in an emergency.
Standard maps should be available to local jurisdictions throughout the country to facilitate emergency planning and response. These maps should have uniform symbols for key information and a common grid for locating points.
Adapting advances in information technology to
emergency response needs is another significant area for coordination and communication. The Decade can bring together specialists in emergency management and information technology and communications to develop prototype projects. Ways need to be devised to test emergency plans and programs by simulating disasters or exercising such plans and programs in small events.
The Committee identified a need for further research to address interorganizational decision-making in an emergency, with emphasis on factors critical to emergency management coordination. For example, what types of organizational framework facilitate enlightened decision-making during emergencies? Research shows that a key question disaster managers have to answer is not who is in charge but how the coordination of every function can be ensured or facilitated.
Management of volunteers and donated resources. Recent major disasters demonstrated both the importance of volunteer resources and the potential for logistic nightmares. Spontaneous volunteers are invaluable in emergency response. In the first hours after an earthquake, tornado, or wildfire, bystanders make the majority of rescues, and volunteers and local citizens are often active in cleaning up. Yet the convergence of people and goods on a disaster area presents a challenge to emergency management officials — to use resources where they are most needed while restricting those that would be in the way. Response, recovery, and reconstruction plans should incorporate systems for managing donated resources and training for coordination of spontaneous volunteers.
A federally sponsored task group comprising representatives of federal agencies, the American Red Cross, private industry, the media, and state and local governments, for example, should develop strategies and model awareness campaigns to educate and determine how best to inform the public of specific needs following a disaster. This group would supplement the work of the federal Interagency Donations Task Force by formulating federal policies and mechanisms for handling postdisaster donations. Its goal should be to match available resources with immediate needs. Official communication that calls for urgently needed resources and discourages unneeded items is an essential part of emergency response and recovery planning.
Demonstration projects. Demonstration projects raise the visibility of natural hazard reduction and can broaden the base of government, industry, and public participation in preparedness activities. A number of successful preparedness programs are bringing together researchers, practitioners, government, business,
community groups, and others, including multiple disciplines. These programs are tailored to their communities but have in common their participants' desire to coordinate disaster preparedness, work together, communicate with one another, and share resources to save lives and reduce losses. Information on these successful approaches to preparedness, recovery, and reconstruction should be disseminated throughout the country, and new regional demonstration projects should be undertaken. Possible project locations include Boston, Chicago, Charleston, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Salt Lake City, San Juan, and Seattle.
Workshops and teleconferences should be held to showcase model programs such as those of the Business and Industry Council for Emergency Planning and Preparedness (BICEPP) in Los Angeles and of the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC). Transferable products and transferable approaches to preparedness should be shared with localities throughout the nation.
Involvement of the utility and lifeline industries in preparedness planning. In any large-scale natural disaster, utilities and lifelines — electricity, water, natural gas, the telephone, radio, television, and transportation — are vulnerable to failure; yet they are essential to response and recovery. At particular risk are the deteriorating infrastructure systems in many large cities.
The utility and lifeline industries often have welldeveloped emergency plans, and they should be major partners in all program areas of the Decade. Emergency management teams from the utility and lifeline industries should be involved in predisaster planning for response and recovery and in local, state, and regional training programs.
In particular, three initiatives should be considered: the establishment of joint government-utility emergency coordination groups for planning and training; predisaster identification of emergency equipment such as portable generators, and training in their transport and use; and joint government-utility public information programs coordinated in advance with the local media to inform the public on what to do and what not to do in an emergency.