Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Catastrophic Planning for the Food, Water, and Sheltering Community Lifeline

On May 23, 2019, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) affirmed its commitment to improve the nation’s resilience with its announcement of the Fiscal Year 2019 Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP). As in previous years, this grant is aimed at helping state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and private-sector companies collaborate in addressing and planning for potential threats. The FY 2019 RCPGP invites applicants to develop capacities in a specific area: the Food, Water, and Sheltering Community Lifeline.

As its name suggests, the Food, Water, and Sheltering Community Lifeline is a set of capabilities jurisdictions should have to house and nourish their constituents in case of a catastrophic disaster. This Lifeline is one of seven Community Lifelines FEMA has identified that jurisdictions should develop to be prepared for disasters.

Hagerty consultants have assisted jurisdictions across the country with developing capabilities to support Community Lifelines such as the Food, Water, and Sheltering Lifeline. In many cases, Hagerty has seen these capabilities put to the test when a disaster strikes. In October 2018, for example, Hagerty provided support to implement the Food, Water, and Sheltering Lifeline when we were charged with coordinating shelter support for over 2,000 people in the wake of the Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions in Massachusetts.

Photo Above: Site set-up and management of non-congregate shelter sites requires coordination of resources among multi-agency partners

Through plan implementations such as this one, Hagerty has identified three key capacities jurisdictions must consider in developing their Food, Water, and Sheltering Community Lifeline, either through the RCPGP grant or in development of response plans under other grant programs:

Shelter Identification

Ask yourself: Does your jurisdiction have different sheltering options to appropriately respond to different types of disasters?

Effectively establishing the Food, Water, and Sheltering Community Lifeline means developing sheltering plans to address potential disasters with a variety of different characteristics. The disaster’s type, magnitude, anticipated recovery time, and impacted population demographics are all factors that must be considered in developing adaptable sheltering plans.

Benefits of adaptable sheltering plans: Establishing shelters appropriate for the disaster will reduce the number of issues disaster survivors encounter as the response matures. If survivors are comfortable, the pace of their return to normalcy will increase. The Merrimack Valley Sheltering Mission demonstrated the benefits of implementing an appropriate sheltering solution. Non-congregate shelters set up in close proximity to disaster victims’ homes allowed residents to stay connected to their everyday lives, allowing access to other critical community lifelines already in place and minimizing the disruptions to the overall community.

Supply Chain Management

Ask yourself: Has your jurisdiction planned how to obtain necessary resources for a catastrophic disaster response?

The Food, Water, and Sheltering Community Lifeline includes providing commodities to disaster survivors in a timely manner. To do so, jurisdictions must identify:

  1. What commodities may be needed for various types of disasters?
  2. What vendors can provide those commodities in a timely manner?
  3. How will those commodities make it into the hands of those in need?

Thorough supply chain plans must be developed to address these questions and should account for disruptions to other critical lifelines in order to ensure the resilience of the commodities supply chain.

Benefits of thorough supply chain plans: Turnkey supply chain plans allow jurisdictions to quickly provide critical resources to survivors while minimizing time and staff spent making logistical arrangements. Time that might otherwise be spent managing a supply chain can then be dedicated to addressing disaster-specific issues. The Merrimack Valley Sheltering Mission required a diverse array of commodities to meet resident needs, including the supply of non-congregate shelter facilities. Establishing processes to maintain and distribute stockpiles of goods allowed Hagerty to minimize time and effort expended while delivering thousands of toiletries, linens, and cooking supplies rapidly.

Data Management

Ask yourself: Can your jurisdiction implement data management systems to track resource distribution to disaster victims at a moment’s notice? While robust data management is necessary in all functions of disaster response, it is especially critical in providing the Food, Water, and Sheltering Community Lifeline in which your jurisdiction will be directly responsible for providing survivors with crucial resources. Simply put, the quality of your data management systems will dictate the speed and efficiency with which these resources are provided to impacted residents.

Benefits of robust data management systems: Effective data management established at the outset of a disaster allows a jurisdiction to maintain a data-based bird’s eye view of its response. Identifying trends in critical resource provision means jurisdictions can address the survivors most pressing needs as quickly as possible. These benefits manifested in Hagerty’s Merrimack Valley Sheltering Mission. Pre-built databases allowed check-ins and check-outs of over 2,000 survivors to be centrally tracked across five housing sites simultaneously. Additionally, databases tracking thousands of shelter residents’ unmet needs allowed Hagerty to efficiently identify and address the most common issues, including when resources needed to be sought outside of the impacted community to address those needs.

Sean van Dril is an Associate for Hagerty Consulting. Sean is currently supporting the state of California in their long-term recovery from the Camp and Woolsey wildfires of 2018. Previously, he worked on Hagerty’s Massachusetts Housing Mission which came in the wake of the Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions. Sean earned his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Political Science from Northwestern University and currently resides in the Washington D.C. area.