By Tahlia Gousse, NACCHO Senior Program Analyst
In commemoration of National Preparedness Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is highlighting five themes for each week of September, emphasizing the various aspects of effective preparedness. Each week, the NACCHO Preparedness team is authoring a blog to promote the theme and provide local health departments and other partner agencies with context and resources to share with the communities they serve. This week’s theme is “Prepare Together.” Make sure to also read our first three posts highlighting the themes of “Prepare Globally,” “Prepare to Respond,” and “Prepare Locally.”
Preparedness is the shared responsibility of our entire nation. Recent research has demonstrated that close-knit neighborhoods are more resilient during a disaster1. While local health departments (LHDs) and first responders play a significant role in preparing for, responding to, and supporting recovery after disasters and public health emergencies that threaten our communities, it isn’t something that should be done alone. In fact, providing community members with information and resources before disaster strikes often leads to a more effective emergency response and a swifter recovery period.
Taking an integrated approach to community preparedness fosters a culture of resilience and further supports the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) national preparedness goal; “a secure and resilient nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk1. But, what exactly makes a community prepared and resilient? According to the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), community resilience expands beyond the traditional preparedness approach. In addition to encouraging actions that build preparedness, resilient communities promote strong local systems and address the many factors that contribute to health.2
Establishing these three factors as an inherent part of local preparedness planning benefits disaster planners and community members alike. To start, fundamental preparedness activities—such as continuity of operations plans for organizations, reunification plans for families, and compiling disaster kits and resources—should be accessible on a regular basis throughout the community. In addition, efforts should be made to build social connectedness, and integrate aspects of resilience into every day health, wellness, and community systems.
Everyone in the community has something to contribute towards the development of community preparedness plans, response capabilities, and recovery efforts. Community contributors include children; older adults; individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs; those from religious, racial, and ethnically diverse backgrounds; people with limited English proficiency; and owners of animals including household pets and service animals. Their needs and contributions must be included to ensure a holistic preparedness approach.
There are a number of useful resources aimed at teaching community preparedness for groups of all types available on Ready.gov, including:
- FEMA-Sponsored Courses – Emergency Management Institute
- CERT Training – National CERT Program
- Stop.Think.Connect.™ – The Department of Homeland Security’s national cybersecurity awareness campaign Stop.Think.Connect. offers free resources for leading cybersecurity awareness activities and presentations for groups of all ages.
- Crime Prevention Presentations – National Crime Prevention Council
- Community Disaster Educator Certification – American Red Cross You can also lead by serving in an outreach and communications role. Join our preparedness coalitions and look for local activities that are a part of these events: National Preparedness Month, Resolve to be Ready, Minor League Baseball and more.
Community engagement is essential to the success of local, national and global preparedness planning and response. Local health departments and other emergency agencies must join together to transform families, neighbors, local businesses and all other community members into preparedness and resilience advocates. Their support will allow for exponential growth in the entire nation’s capacity to better anticipate and address whatever threats and disasters the future may bring.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Preparedness Goal 2nd Edition https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1443799615171-2aae90be55041740f97e8532fc680d40/National_Preparedness_Goal_2nd_Edition.pdf
- Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response. http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/abc/Pages/community-resilience.aspx