COMMUNITY LIFELINES: LESSONS LEARNED FROM HURRICANE IRMA AND CONSIDERATIONS FOR HURRICANE DORIAN
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established the Community Lifelines construct as a direct result of the tragic 2017 and 2018 hurricane seasons. The Lifelines concept aims to stabilize the indispensable resources in every community during the response to an event. The Hagerty Team is proactively integrating Community Lifelines into response, recovery, and preparedness operations across the country. It is critical for communities to understand their ability to perform essential functions before, during, and after an event. The Community Lifelines framework allows the whole community to assess the status of and impact to each of the seven lines so the correct essential action can be taken to support those lifelines not operating at full capacity during an event.
FEMA Community Life Lines: Source
THE COMMUNITY LIFELINES CONCEPT IS RESHAPING EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
The Incident Command System (ICS) and response-focused Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) helped emergency management agencies coordinate response efforts in ways that were rare in the history of disaster response. However, the federal government and many states can sometimes use up to 20 or more ESFs encompassing a range of needs and assets that can lead to either redundancies or gaps in response activities.
The Community Lifelines construct was created as a direct result of FEMA’s efforts to reshape potentially disjointed or redundant coordination efforts across various federal, state, local, tribal, non-profit, and private entities during the response to an event. The Lifelines concept simplifies the approach to response activities, thereby helping to create unity across all efforts and in all phases of emergency management operations. The Lifelines framework acts as a catalyst for critical changes to resource monitoring during an incident, in turn supporting FEMA’s efforts to better organize operations during a response. The grouping of Essential Elements of Information (EEIs) under the respective Community Lifelines facilitates coordinated communication among ESFs and Recovery Support Functions (RSFs). Focusing attention and communication is operationally critical in order to perform essential functions and stabilize the community.
COMMUNITY LIFELINES DURING RESPONSE
FEMA’s adoption of the Community Lifelines framework creates an efficient system to deploy limited resources, support local response, and reduce response time. The structure of the Lifelines framework focuses the community’s analysis of critical systems and continuous monitoring during the storm. The Lifelines help consolidate ESF structures and reporting into seven consolidated areas, thereby more distinctly highlighting high priorities amidst complex problems. As Dorian approaches, communities should consider implementing the Community Lifelines initiative to better understand and anticipate the community’s needs during a response and reduce the disruption of critical services and supply chains.
During the 2017 natural disasters, Puerto Rico continued to mobilize food supplies without realizing that the root cause of the problem was not a lack of food supplies on the island, but rather the breakdown of infrastructure supporting food distribution operations. Implementing the Community Lifelines framework helps community leaders identify root causes to the community’s key problems, mitigates bottlenecks, and better organizes the response to address vital needs.
COMMUNITY LIFELINES IN PLANNING
In addition to response efforts, Community Lifelines should be strategically implemented into community planning initiatives (e.g. – All Hazard Plans, Recovery Plans, and Strategic Support Plans). Potential limiting factors and vulnerable lifelines should be identified before an event to aid streamlining operations and plans for response and recovery.
“Lifelines provide indispensable services that enable the continuous operation of critical business and government functions, and that would risk health and safety or national economic security if not promptly restored. Solutions to stabilize lifelines do not fit within a single construct (i.e. an Emergency Support Function [ESF] or Recovery Support Function [RSF]), so we must provide cross-sector coordination to effectively stabilize critical lifelines.”
– Brock Long, in testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
While serving as the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), I oversaw the creation and implementation of the Community Lifelines initiatives. Hagerty’s unique expertise in this concept establishes us as an industry leader in Community Lifeline planning and integration. Our team of experts can help provide Community Lifeline technical assistance to communities and individuals across the nation. The Hagerty Team is prepared to help local leadership make key decisions using Community Lifelines to support prioritization during response, including the creation of effective operational strategies, priorities, and objectives.
Based on the pending storm, Hagerty’s Executive Chairman Brock Long wanted to expand upon his thoughts in a recent conversation on CBS News as evacuation considerations are weighed.
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