Friday, November 02, 2012

Responding to Sandy: Compassion, Collaboration, Courage

Commendations are in order for all those responding to the unimaginable devastation of Hurricane Sandy through their compassion, collaboration and courage. As detailed in my previous blog of May 10, 2007, their service is of extraordinary significance to our beloved country and to the alleviation of human suffering:
Emergency Preparedness and Response: Alleviating Human Suffering

Throughout this past week, the United States has been beset with extraordinary natural disasters including tornadoes, floods and fires:
  • A massive tornado claimed ten lives in Greensburg, Kansas on Friday, May 4, 2007. Over 90 percent of the town was destroyed and turned into piles of debris.
  • The next day, more than 60 tornadoes were reported to touch down.
  • As of May 9, residents of towns in Iowa, Kansas and Missouri were preparing for the worst flooding along the Missouri River in a decade.
  • Wildfires and brush fires throughout the U.S., from Los Angeles to Minnesota, Georgia to Florida, threaten acres of forest, parkland, and homes.
All of these disasters, and many others during the last two years, were foreshadowed by the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe on August 29, 2005, the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. Recovering from Katrina has been hampered by bureaucracy, apathy and indifference. As reported in The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina, the nation must develop a culture of preparedness. Although a culture of preparedness may not be able to fully prevent the devastation of natural disasters, the dedication to its principles may serve to minimize the effects and alleviate human suffering.
Individuals entrusted to serve American communities in positions of emergency preparedness must understand that their profession is of extraordinary significance in preventing and diminishing human anguish and misery. Their work must be people-centered and understood comprehensively as a profession that involves mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
[Reprinted from The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned –]

Critical Challenge: National Preparedness
Lesson Learned: The Federal government should work with its homeland security partners in revising existing plans, ensuring a functional operational structure—including within regions—and establishing a clear, accountable process for all National preparedness efforts. In doing so, the Federal government must:
  • Ensure that Executive Branch agencies are organized, trained, and equipped to perform their response roles.
  • Finalize and implement the National Preparedness Goal.
Critical Challenge: Integrated Use of Military Capabilities
Lesson Learned: The Departments of Homeland Security and Defense should jointly plan for the Department of Defense’s support of Federal response activities as well as those extraordinary circumstances when it is appropriate for the Department of Defense to lead the Federal response. In addition, the Department of Defense should ensure the transformation of the National Guard is focused on increased integration with active duty forces for homeland security plans and activities.
Critical Challenge: Communications
Lesson Learned: The Department of Homeland Security should review our current laws, policies, plans, and strategies relevant to communications. Upon the conclusion of this review, the Homeland Security Council, with support from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, should develop a National Emergency Communications Strategy that supports communications operability and interoperability.
Critical Challenge: Logistics and Evacuation
Lesson Learned: The Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with State and local governments and the private sector, should develop a modern, flexible and transparent logistics system. This system should be based on established contracts for stockpiling commodities at the local level for emergencies and the provision of goods and services during emergencies. The Federal government must develop the capacity to conduct large-scale logistical operations that supplement and, if necessary, replace State and local logistical systems by leveraging resources within both the public sector and the private sector. The Department of Transportation, in coordination with other appropriate departments of the Executive Branch, must also be prepared to conduct mass evacuation operations when disasters overwhelm or incapacitate State and local governments.
Critical Challenge: Search and Rescue
Lesson Learned: The Department of Homeland Security should lead an interagency review of current policies and procedures to ensure effective integration of all Federal search and rescue assets during disaster response.
Critical Challenge: Public Safety and Security
Lesson Learned: The Department of Justice, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, should examine Federal responsibilities for support to State and local law enforcement and criminal justice systems during emergencies and then build operational plans, procedures, and policies to ensure an effective Federal law enforcement response.
Critical Challenge: Public Health and Medical Support
Lesson Learned: In coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and other homeland security partners, the Department of Health and Human Services should strengthen the Federal government’s capability to provide public health and medical support during a crisis. This will require the improvement of command and control of public health resources, the development of deliberate plans, an additional investment in deployable operational resources, and an acceleration of the initiative to foster the widespread use of interoperable electronic health records systems.
Critical Challenge: Human Services
Lesson Learned: The Department of Health and Human Services should coordinate with other departments of the Executive Branch, as well as State governments and non-governmental organizations, to develop a robust, comprehensive, and integrated system to deliver human services during disasters so that victims are able to receive Federal and State assistance in a simple and seamless manner. In particular, this system should be designed to provide victims a consumer oriented, simple, effective, and single encounter from which they can receive assistance.
Critical Challenge: Mass Care and Housing
Lesson Learned: Using established Federal core competencies and all available resources, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in coordination with other departments of the Executive Branch with housing stock, should develop integrated plans and bolstered capabilities for the temporary and long-term housing of evacuees. The American Red Cross and the Department of Homeland Security should retain responsibility and improve the process of mass care and sheltering during disasters.
Critical Challenge: Public Communications
Lesson Learned: The Department of Homeland Security should develop an integrated public communications plan to better inform, guide, and reassure the American public before, during, and after a catastrophe. The Department of Homeland Security should enable this plan with operational capabilities to deploy coordinated public affairs teams during a crisis.
Critical Challenge: Critical Infrastructure and Impact Assessment
Lesson Learned: The Department of Homeland Security, working collaboratively with the private sector, should revise the National Response Plan and finalize the Interim National Infrastructure Protection Plan to be able to rapidly assess the impact of a disaster on critical infrastructure. We must use this knowledge to inform Federal response and prioritization decisions and to support infrastructure restoration in order to save lives and mitigate the impact of the disaster on the Nation.
Critical Challenge: Environmental Hazards and Debris Removal
Lesson Learned: The Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, should oversee efforts to improve the Federal government’s capability to quickly gather environmental data and to provide the public and emergency responders the most accurate information available, to determine whether it is safe to operate in a disaster environment or to return after evacuation. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security should work with its State and local homeland security partners to plan and to coordinate an integrated approach to debris removal during and after a disaster.
Critical Challenge: Managing Offers of Foreign Assistance and Inquiries Regarding Affected Foreign Nationals
Lesson Learned: The Department of State, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, should review and revise policies, plans, and procedures for the management of foreign disaster assistance. In addition, this review should clarify responsibilities and procedures for handling inquiries regarding affected foreign nationals.
Critical Challenge: Non-governmental Aid
Lesson Learned: The Federal response should better integrate the contributions of volunteers and non-governmental organizations into the broader national effort. This integration would be best achieved at the State and local levels, prior to future incidents. In particular, State and local governments must engage NGOs in the planning process, credential their personnel, and provide them the necessary resource support for their involvement in a joint response.
Critical Challenge: Training, Exercises, and Lessons Learned
Lesson Learned: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should establish specific requirements for training, exercise, and lessons learned programs linked through a comprehensive system and common supporting methodology throughout the Federal, State and local governments. Furthermore, assessments of training and exercises should be based on clear and consistent performance measures. DHS should require all Federal and State entities with operational Homeland Security responsibilities to have a lessons learned capability, and DHS should ensure all entities are accountable for the timely implementation of remedial actions in response to lessons learned.
Critical Challenge: Homeland Security Professional Development and Education
Lesson Learned: The Department of Homeland Security should develop a comprehensive program for the professional development and education of the Nation’s homeland security personnel including Federal, State and local employees as well as emergency management persons within the private sector, non-governmental organizations, as well as faith-based and community groups. This program should foster a “joint” Federal Interagency, State, local, and civilian team.
Critical Challenge: Citizen and Community Preparedness
Lesson Learned: The Federal government, working with State, local, NGO, and private sector partners, should combine the various disparate citizen preparedness programs into a single national campaign to promote and strengthen citizen and community preparedness. This campaign should be developed in a manner that appeals to the American people, incorporates the endorsement and support of prominent national figures, focuses on the importance of individual and community responsibility for all-hazard disaster preparedness, provides meaningful and comprehensive education, training and exercise opportunities applicable to all facets of the American population, and establishes specialized preparedness programs for those less able to provide for themselves during disasters such as children, the ill, the disabled, and the elderly.

The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons LearnedClick here to visit site



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