The nation faces numerous natural, human-caused, and technological threats. As threat environments change, efforts to prepare for and respond to them must also evolve. To overcome many of the preparedness challenges that communities currently face or will face in the future, leaders should take a two-step approach: Step 1, identify the threats, hazards, and risks; Step 2, take actions to mitigate these threats, hazards, and risks. Of course, this simplified approach is not at all simple, but it is necessary for reducing the impact when an emergency or disaster occurs.
Imagine skipping one or both steps – for example, a community in a flood zone without an evacuation plan, or a hospital’s robust security plan to keep out intruders when an insider attack occurs. Whether because of budget allocations, limited resources, lack of interest, politics, or some other reason, some communities and organizations are still skipping steps. However, these daunting tasks are not single actions but rather a never-ending process of evaluation and improvement.
Identifying threats, hazards, and risks is an ongoing process that requires leaders to be on alert for anything that may affect their current emergency plans and procedures. As COVID emerged, healthcare providers faced many new challenges such as resource deficits and workforce retention that left many facilities unprepared. They also are facing the growing threat of active shooters and other violent incidents. Critical infrastructure is another sector that is vulnerable to both cyber and physical attacks. By identifying the threats, leaders can begin to take actions to secure and protect their facilities and communities.
Taking actions to mitigate the threats, hazards, and risks is also an ongoing process that requires leadership support, stakeholder buy-in, and resources. Redundant communications systems are one way that communities can ensure interoperability when one or more modes of communications are affected. Training and education can help promote stakeholder buy-in and build the human resources needed to respond to current and future incidents. Internships are just one of the training and educational opportunities that can sometimes be overlooked for recruitment and professional development.
In this April edition of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, the authors provide valuable information to get leaders focused on overcoming preparedness challenges. Through identification and action, communities will be more resilient to future emergencies and disasters.