opic: Understanding Mitigation and Preparedness
Mitigation involves many elements including risk assessment and mitigation efforts, but prevention should come even before mitigation. Preparedness is another one of the four key emergency management functions. Preplanning is part of preparedness as well as response.
You have just been appointed the new emergency manager for your agency. Before you, no one did anything in this area. Your boss calls you in and wants to know where to start and what to do regarding these functional areas. (He or she is concerned with the agency itself, not so much the community or customers you serve at this point.)
Tell us what you would tell your boss and how would you go about this task. Be specific and detailed.
Your boss is going to move forward based on what you tell him or her. This includes many things such as planning, resources, and budgeting. You only get one chance to get it right with your boss to start all of this off correctly. Be detailed. (For this post, you do not need to cover response and recovery functions.) What does the Bible say about mitigation and preparedness?
Nemeth: ch. 4
SME: Hello. Welcome back to Module Three. Homeland Security 500 - Foundations of Homeland Security. Understanding Mitigation and Preparedness. Remember how I said on phases on modules one and two, we talked about there's four phases of Emergency Management, Mitigation and Preparedness, Response and Recovery. In this module, we're going to talk about the first two, Mitigation and Preparedness. But I do want to say this is cyclical. It never ends and, there’s no clear line between one end and one begins. Let's go ahead and get started, I hope you're having a great week. I hope you're enjoying the course and let's get going.
Okay. First, let's look at risk management framework. The National Infrastructure Protection Plan, NIPP, describes processes to set goals and objectives. Identify assets, systems, and networks. Assess risk; consequences, vulnerabilities, and threats. Prioritize. Implement protective programs and resiliency strategies a.k.a. mitigation. And then measure effectiveness. I think visuals help. There's really three areas we're going to look at. One will be physical, one cyber and one human.
We're going to set goals to objectives for our risk management. We're going to identify assets, systems and networks. We're going to assess risk, the consequences, vulnerabilities, and threats and we're going to prioritize. And from the program, we're going to measure effectiveness and we're going to continue to do this. How often do you do it? Well, you do it initially then you want to keep reviewing it. Something new kicks in, there's new threats on the horizon I would suggest you do it. At least yearly, we want to go back and look at our risk assessment. Worst thing you can do is to do a risk assessment, see you have vulnerabilities and then do nothing about it.
That's bad in so many ways, morale wise people will see that you don't care. Liability wise, you've increased your liability. It's just not a good business practice to do it and then do nothing about it. Okay, risk analysis and management. What is risk? Risk is the likelihood of a threat or hazard occurring to an object, a person, place or thing that is to be protected. Remember in the last module we talked about all the different risk that are out there. And threats and hazards are either man-made or natural. And both can occur, both can hurt you, kill you, hamper your productivity, set you back.
So, we must look at both man-made and natural. Man-made can be purposeful or accidental. We have threats and we have hazards. Protection is keeping something or someone safe from harm or outside influence. Now, notice earlier we talked about persons, places or things. Persons can be groups like events or it can be individual like a president or governor or CEO or somebody like that. Okay. Mitigation preparedness. Mitigation is a type of long-term pre-disaster planning which involves sustained expenditures are structural and non-structural efforts to reduce or eliminate future risk. It's always going to be structural or non-structural. I will talk about more as we go along when it comes to mitigation.
Mitigation plans and activities are, in practice, usually medium to long term and mitigation is the cornerstone of our emergency management since it's a classic example of thinking ahead, which pays off in the long run. A great example is Hurricane Katrina. Actually, New Orleans would not have been hit nearly as hard, had the levees been up to standards. The levees weren't really designed for a category four or five hurricane. They were barely designed for a category three.
If the levees had not failed, then New Orleans would not have been hit nearly as hard. To the east of New Orleans, the coastal area was destroyed, was wiped out. But the levees were what was the problem. And mitigation could have fixed that problem and that's a structural issue.
Mitigation is related to other concepts of long-term planning, reconstruction and preparedness. Reconstruction means repair or rebuilding but preparedness means getting ready or practicing responding. Mitigation, it is short term too. You can go for low-hanging fruit but we must look at the long term as well. Reconstruction and preparedness. And then a lot of these are a structural thing, we talked about preparing the levees, building them up. A non-structural thing would be where you can live, a policy or zoning change.
Mitigation means to lessen the effects or act toward the building and putting together of certain structures and plans so that the impact of any future disaster will be ameliorated or eliminated if possible. If we want to reduce, we can't necessarily deal away with a threat in some cases. We can't stop weather but we can prepare for it. We can mitigate it through structural or non-structural activities.
Amelioration means to change things for the better, and impact can be understood as the consequences or the likelihood of something happening in the first place if the latter is theoretically possible. A lot of times you will see green spaces if you go to a park. And there's a creek or river. At one point, there may been a house there but at some point, maybe the house is abandoned and it was destroyed. Instead of rebuilding there, it was rezoned, maybe was purchased and it was turned into a green space or a park. If a park floods, it's okay, the water will recede and there's really no damage. But if there's homes along the river then there's a problem with that.
That's just an example of actual structural and non-structural mitigation strategy in use at the same time. Contingency planning, the concept of contingency planning is technically different than a concept of continuity planning. And we'll look at this. A contingency plan is sometimes called a reversion plan because it outlines what kinds of decisions and procedures are the fall back procedures reverted to in case some crisis unexpected circumstances arise. A basic contingency plan is paper and pencil drills or backups. I'm old enough to know what it was like before computers and cell phones. Maybe you are, maybe you aren't.
Young people nowadays, they don't know what it's like not to have a computer or a cell phone. They go to a store, and if that scanner didn't work-- I've been to a store and stood at the cash register where the scanner or computer is not working. And they stand there and look at you. They don't know how to add up change. They don't know how to add change up and give you change back. They don't have a contingency plan for when that happens. That's just as basic as it gets. We need to practice with dispatchers. What happens if your CAD goes down? We need to practice the old-fashioned way, with paper and pencil.
A contingency plan can also be redundancy or a hot site or backup systems. Contingency plans always tend to refer to some planned change for the organization while continuity plans always tend to refer the services and assets that are already operational. Emergency preparedness. Preparedness in the field of emergency management can best be defined as the state of readiness to respond to a disaster, crisis or other emergency situation. And we're not going to get into a lot of this in more detail.
If you take homeland security 510, we're going to get into a lot more of this and more detail. And you'll get it in other classes as well. This is an overview class covering all of these different things. General or long-term preparedness encompasses the marshaling of resources, the areas of prediction, forecasting, and warning against disaster events. It also involves education and training initiatives and planning to evacuate vulnerable populations from threatened areas.
We look to education, that's awareness. Training, how do we respond? What do we do? Years ago, in Virginia, like other southern states along the coast. They put a counter-flow plan in place. They spent a lot of money buying and building gates to do a counter-flow but reverse the flow of traffic coming off Interstate 64 coming away from the Tidewater, Virginia. We needed to train with that, we needed to practice it. One morning, one Sunday morning around three o'clock, we began to implement that. And up and down the interstate, all the gates were closed. It took about 500+ people from multiple agencies to initiate this. We shut down the interstate and actually did a counter-flow.
We didn't really put vehicles on the other side, we just kind of had it there in case it happened. It went pretty well. There were some little hiccups here and there but that was a valuable lesson and it needed to be done. And we were opened back up by like 7:30 and it really didn't affect the traffic that bad. It often takes place against a background of attempts to increase public and political awareness of potential disasters and to garner support for increased funding of mitigations efforts. And that's a problem a lot of times because people don't want to spend money, especially politicians, on something that hadn't happened. It's a cliché but it's worth it to say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Okay. Emergency preparedness. Short-term preparedness means to prepare for certain disasters once they have begun to occur. If you work in emergency management, you'll know when the ice storm or snowstorm is coming. You'll have phone calls, you'll have meetings, and will make sure everybody's prepared. Then have an update after it starts every so many hours or every day. In this latter sense, preparedness means to prepare as much as possible for known disasters. The best preparations are always about what we know best.
The best preparation is to get ready, plan, organize, set up, practice some drill or test. These drills or tests can come in various ways. They could be tabletops, they can be role-playing, they can be paper pencil, or they can be full-blown. Preparedness means proper planning, resource allocation, training, and simulated disaster response exercises. Once everything starts happening, you want to have your resources in place. Staging is very important.
I've seen counties where rivers will flood and you can't get across if you don't have the resources across the other side already, not going to get them over there. Staging is an important part of resource allocation. It is important to conduct exercises to ensure the skills, equipment, and other resources can be effectively coordinated when an emergency occurs. One thing that happens is the area of impact will be inundated with first responders.
Many years ago, I had an occasion to lead a team for a jurisdiction with law enforcement in preparation for a sniper attack, DC sniper. Actually, we worked all week long on preparing for this and unfortunately, the sniper struck our area. We were finishing our plan on a Friday and he struck in our area on a Saturday. One thing we didn't want to happen, we did with all of our resources, which was thousands of police officers, to converge on the site of the shooting. We set up a concentric circle, 50 miles out.
We shut down every single road. We didn't know where he would strike but we knew we didn't want everybody going there. We set up a staging area. We knew we would have staging areas. That's exactly what we did. The plan worked very well. We didn't catch him because we had faulty information. We thought he was driving a white van and he was actually a dark color sedan. He wasn’t very far away from where we were standing and working.
Exercises also provide a good opportunity to identify organizational and departmental shortcomings and to take corrective action before an actual event takes place. Once you do your planning, you want to exercise to the plan. Once you do the exercise, you want to have a debriefing. On our lane closure, our counter flow operation, I had 40 or 50 people in a room. Probably a lot more. It was about 50+. We had about 40 or 50 people in the room about eight o'clock in the morning.
I held a debriefing and I asked each agency for the person to raise your hand who was instant commander for that agency. One particular agency, I won't embarrass them, I asked who the commander was for their agency and about five people raised their hands. That was a flaw. They didn't know who their incident commander was. Everybody was there and everybody saw that. It was a little embarrassing but it was a lesson to learn.
Emergency management planning. Emergency management planning is a broad term that encompasses many principles of emergency, risk, disaster, and hazard mitigation or management, as well as those aspects of civil defense and protection typical of emergency preparedness. While the terms emergency, disaster, and hazard might be synonymous, to some degree, especially emergency and disaster, it is probably important to be somewhat careful with definitions.
The fact of the matter is you're never going to get everybody to agree what exactly a disaster is or a catastrophe or emergency. It really is in the eye of the beholder. To begin with then, let us ask what is an emergency? The definition of emergency is an exceptional event that exceeds the capacity of normal resources and organizations should cope. If you have a two-vehicle crash, that's an emergency but is not an emergency in this phrase.
If you have 117 vehicles in one crash, that's an emergency. That's a disaster. It took every resource we had and more to handle that. All emergencies are by definition dangerous, which means that the potential loss of life is involved. This is why emergency and disaster are quasi-synonymous. Disaster is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as a calamitous event causing a great loss of life, damage or hardship.
But Perry, 2006, has a failure of a social system to deliver reasonable conditions of life. It goes on, clearly, a disaster is somewhat ambiguous and care must be taken to distinguish it from other states of emergency. Your state or locality may have definitions but more likely not. Many things can be taken from messages just be careful the choice of words you use, especially to communicate with the public. In this regard, Alexander says there are four levels of emergency.
Routine dispatch problem, the most minor of emergencies of all the first responders. Dealt with daily. Incident, any emergency a jurisdiction can handle without needing to call in outside help. Pretty close to the first one, right? Disaster, an incident or catastrophe involving substantial destruction and mass casualty. And then a national disaster or international, a substantial magnitude of seriousness.
I think we can look at most of these things and say 9/11 was a disaster, some people might say even an international disaster. Katrina was a disaster, some people might say there's a catastrophe. Those would both be okay. They weren't routine dispatches and they weren't just incidents. But again, that family, that lose a loved one, it's a disaster, it's a catastrophe. We have to look at the context of the word. How is it used, where is used, and so forth.
Emergency planning. The basic elements of an emergency plan or context, legislative framework, participating organizations, scenarios, hazard, vulnerability, risk, and impact. Emergency needs such as search and rescue, medical care, triage, public safety, food, shelter, damage prevention, and limitation. Available resources such as structure, items, competencies and personnel. Equipment, vehicles and buildings and facilities. The resource utilization, application of resources to problems posed by scenario, dissemination of plan, and testing, revising and use of the plan.
We have to look at the context, scenarios, emergency needs. Right now and in the future, there will be resources and resource utilization. We're leaving with two more quotes. Meno's Paradox, "How will you cope with a problem when you don't know what the problem will be?" So, you have to be prepared for everything, don't you? You have to plan for the worst case.
Then Psalm 91:2 says, "I will say of the Lord. He is my refuge and my fortress. In Him will I trust." Better words I haven't heard. I hope you had a great week. I hope you have a great next week. Let us know if you need anything. God bless. Take care for now.
[00:17:53] [END OF AUDIO]
DISCUSSION BOARD FORUM INSTRUCTIONS
There will be 8 Discussion Board Forums throughout this course. You are required to provide a thread in response to the provided topic for each forum. Each thread is to be at least 250 words, cite at least 2 sources, and demonstrate course-related knowledge. In addition to the thread, you are required to reply to 2 other classmates’ threads. Each reply must be at least 100 words. Acceptable sources include the textbook, peer-reviewed journal articles, government sources, professional association websites, etc. Each original discussion will also require a biblical reference/quote (which is not a part of the original source count).
Responding to a classmate’s thread requires both the addition of new ideas and analysis. A particular point made by the classmate must be addressed and built upon by your analysis in order to move the conversation forward. Thus, the reply is a rigorous assignment that requires you to build upon the thread to develop deeper and more thorough discussion of the ideas introduced. As such, replies that merely affirm, restate or unprofessionally quarrel with the previous thread(s) and fail to make a valuable, substantive contribution to the discussion will receive appropriate point deductions.
This course utilizes the Post-First feature in all Discussion Board Forums. This means you will only be able to read and interact with your classmates’ threads after you have submitted your thread in response to the provided prompt. For additional information on Post-First, click here for a tutorial.
The threads are due by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Thursday of the assigned modules/weeks, and the replies are due by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday of the same modules/weeks, except for Module/Week 8.
For Module/Week 8, the thread is due by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, and the replies are due by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Friday.