Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

National Preparedness Month: Lessons in Regional Engagement to Ensure Diverse Perspectives in Planning

How is the concept of “region” implemented when it crosses state lines and contains distinct geographic areas and diverse stakeholders? This week’s post will explore how Hagerty Consulting, Inc. (Hagerty) is supporting its clients in the Portland Metropolitan Region (PMR). The PMR consists of five counties in the states of Oregon and Washington: Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, and Washington Counties (Oregon) and Clark County (Washington). The Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization (RDPO) is working to build regional pre- and post-disaster cohesion after identifying the need for a Regional Recovery Framework. The framework is intended to make the PMR more prepared to manage long-term recovery from catastrophic incidents. For the framework to be effective, it needs to be understood and executed and to receive buy-in from a diverse group of stakeholders with varying degrees of recovery planning experience.

The most critical piece of building the Regional Recovery Framework is establishing a robust stakeholder engagement strategy to ensure all parties have the knowledge needed to understand their role in executing recovery operations. Using Hagerty’s expertise, this model of engagement can be scaled to meet a variety of clients’ needs—big and small—across numerous preparedness efforts. When the stakeholder engagement strategy is customized to meet the needs of that stakeholder group, it can serve to galvanize the group around a shared vision. Hagerty’s stakeholder engagement process allows for impactful engagement by diverse voices throughout the region.

However, stakeholder engagement can be challenging given the backdrop of competing priorities and the wide-range of stakeholders. Traditional engagement techniques, such as inviting stakeholders to participate in recovery planning sessions, have only been somewhat successful. It was clear that in order to galvanize the stakeholders, we needed a creative approach to engagement. Hagerty, in collaboration with RDPO, discovered the following techniques are successful stakeholder engagement strategies:

  • Connecting with established groups. Recovery requires a regional, interdisciplinary, and long-term approach. While the region has a strong sense of civic engagement and participation, many of the stakeholders do not have the bandwidth to participate in a new planning initiative. By leveraging the meetings of established groups as a platform to engage stakeholders about the project, our team can obtain feedback on recovery goals, initiatives, and priorities without significantly increasing the level of effort required.
  • Providing context. It is difficult for stakeholders to envision what a long-term recovery effort entails. Case studies and written and verbal presentations, can provide an opportunity for stakeholders to understand the challenges and types of activities that they might face during recovery. These types of presentations empower stakeholders to obtain answers to their specific recovery questions, identify how other jurisdictions wrestled with similar issues (e.g., equity and social justice) and interdependencies between groups, and demonstrate the value of planning for recovery.
  • Hosting online open houses. Meaningful stakeholder engagement is not always measured in the number of participants at a meeting. The region is exploring the use of online open houses to seek out wider audience input. Online open houses will provide background information about the project, ask stakeholders to provide feedback using survey tools, and empower the stakeholder to keep informed about the project. The ability for stakeholders to gain information on their own timeframe allows stakeholders to “drop-in” on a project and provide meaningful feedback, even if they have taken a hiatus or have not been engaged in previous project activities.

The impact of Hurricane Florence and the potential for other disasters this hurricane season emphasize how important it is for communities to prepare and to collaborate across a region. You can learn about additional preparedness services Hagerty offers to jurisdictions and regions of all sizes at: http://hagertyconsulting.com/preparedness/.

Gisele Parry has more than 15 years of experience managing teams that create emergency response plans, training and exercising plans, continuity of operations (COOP) plans, and strategic plans for federal, state, and local governments and private sector businesses. She has managed and served as the lead planner for Amtrak’s incident response program and created the structure and plans for their Family Assistance Program, incident response team, and call center. Gisele earned a Master of Public Policy degree at Duke University and a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University. She serves as Hagerty’s Regional Client Services Director.

Hope Winship is an emergency management specialist and experienced city planner who works at the local, state, and the federal government level to ensure that communities understand and address their vulnerabilities to hazards and the associated risks to the communities’ physical, social, and economic well-being. She has experience facilitating collaboration with government and non-governmental stakeholders to establish and achieve common goals related to building capacity to mitigate risks, respond to hazard events, and to recover from disasters. Hope holds a Masters of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in City Planning and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Boston University. Hope is a Senior Managing Associate in the Preparedness Division.

Tylor Headrick is a Preparedness Managing Associate out of Hagerty’s Evanston office with a degree in geography and an emphasis in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from the University of California Santa Barbara (2012). Tylor was deployed to Chatham County, Georgia, for three months to assist with Hurricane Matthew Recovery. When he is not running around emergency operations centers (EOCs), facilitating meetings, and producing maps, he gets his exercise by cycling, sailing, and reading comics.