Streamlining the Disaster Planning Cycle
Tropical Storm Imelda’s historic rainfall in Texas last week is the latest indicator of the potential impacts of climate change. With frequent and severe disasters, jurisdictions must often respond to one disaster before fully recovering from previous incidents. This trend has prompted communities to streamline their emergency management processes between phases of the disaster management cycle (prepare, mitigate, respond, recover) to bolster their resilience to future disasters. This post, the third in our series for National Preparedness Month, will highlight examples of jurisdictions that are streamlining all phases of disaster related efforts.
State of California – The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is performing recovery and preparedness initiatives at the same time. This is evident in their recovery from the 2018 Camp and Woolsey Fires, in which Recovery Support Functions (RSFs) are enhancing their plans and standard operating procedures for future recoveries. In addition, their Mitigation team is actively coordinating the use of mitigation funding as part of the recovery process.
City of Panama City, Florida – The City of Panama City is increasing their recovery capacity in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. In addition to creating a Recovery Action Plan, the City of Panama City is developing both a Pre-Disaster Recovery Plan and Redevelopment Plan to improve the city’s resilience and preparedness before the next disaster. These tools can be adapted to serve as templates for the City’s recovery during future events, expediting post-disaster planning activities.
Montgomery County, Texas – In August 2017, Montgomery County was struck by Hurricane Harvey. During their recovery, the County prioritized mitigation projects to reduce the impacts of future disasters. While recovery was still ongoing, the County analyzed communities that routinely flood and pursued Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding to implement mitigation projects to improve resilience and preparedness.
California, the City of Panama City, and Montgomery County found strategies to streamline their emergency management processes because conditions demanded it. Other jurisdictions can take steps to streamline their emergency management even when a disaster is not imminent. Streamlining the emergency management process enables:
- Smoother recoveries – When jurisdictions consider the disaster phases as a whole, they find ways to ensure that work in one phase supports work in the next phase. Aligning work between phases eases the transition between phases.
- Faster recoveries – Integrating preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts reduces duplicative work between phases, accelerating a community’s recovery.
- Better recovery outcomes – During the recovery process, jurisdictions can increase their emergency management capacities by identifying strengths and vulnerabilities to address in future preparedness planning. Increased emergency management capacities allow jurisdictions to better-serve constituents and improve their recovery outcomes.
What Can Your Jurisdiction Do?
The following are recommendations for jurisdictions looking to streamline their emergency management process:
- Encourage staff collaboration – Create opportunities for employees that work within each disaster phase (prepare, mitigate, respond, and recover) to collaborate. This may include inviting field personnel who implement recovery actions to review/update pre-disaster plans or involving pre-disaster planners and policymakers in post-disaster recovery operations.
- Continually assess your processes – Review your jurisdiction’s emergency management procedures and identify ways to make recovery smoother in future disasters. An example of this is drafting what California calls a “mid-action report” — an after-action report completed midway through the recovery process.
- Record lessons learned immediately – Document lessons learned, complete after-action reports, and update preparedness initiatives (e.g., plans, trainings, exercises) during recovery efforts instead of waiting until recovery is over.
Over the past several weeks, Hagerty’s NPM Blog Series presented a reflection on evolution in the emergency preparedness field specifically highlighting transition and innovation in our preparedness practice related to the FEMA Community Lifelines and through our work related to hazard mitigation planning and recovery planning. With diverse experience, Hagerty is well-equipped to help jurisdictions innovate in their preparedness practice and support future recovery efforts. To learn about other work Hagerty has been involved in, visit our Preparedness home page.
Emily Preziotti is an Associate within Hagerty’s Preparedness Division, supporting mitigation and recovery planning efforts. Prior to joining Hagerty, Emily served as the project manager for the Resilience Adaptation Feasibility Tool (RAFT), a project that assesses coastal communities’ resilience to flooding. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning, and currently resides in Virginia. In her free time, Emily enjoys reading mystery and thriller novels.
Sean van Dril is an Associate within Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. Most recently, Sean supported 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. In free moments, Sean enjoys finding creative ways to engage young people in the political process.