Since 9/11, government agencies at all levels across the nation have received more than $36 billion in funding for disaster preparedness. This subsidizing has helped improve the general state of emergency preparedness overall, but as money becomes scarcer, this could change, especially concerning public health emergencies. In the face of funding cuts, how do we improve processes to make sure communities and public agencies are adequately equipped to handle emergencies?
A study performed by researchers at George Washington University, the University of Southern California (USC) and the Cabarrus Health Alliance, identified seven significant problems and made the following recommendations:
#1 Gap Analysis and #2 Individual Involvement
The federal government should increase emergency preparedness measures at a nationwide cross-community level. These measures should be used to conduct a nationwide “gap analysis” of community preparedness to identify less-ready communities.
Since communities are comprised of individuals, those individuals should increase their preparedness by asking the following questions of local officials:
- What hazards are most likely?
- How will I get alerts and warnings?
- What is the advice and plans for sheltering and evacuation for the hazards that may impact the community?
- Are there emergency contact numbers I should have for different situations?
- Are there opportunities for preparedness education and training?
- Does my community have a plan?
- Can I obtain a copy?
- What does the plan contain?
- How often are plans updated?
- What should I know about this plan?
- What hazards does it cover?
#3 Fund Distribution
Federal, state, and local governments should explore alternative ways of distributing funding in order to ensure that all communities – regardless of status – have the ability to create and uphold local management systems to support adequate infrastructures. There are currently only a handful of grants available through just as few over-strapped agencies.
#4 Accountability and #5 Federal Coordination
Not only do there need to be clear, established metrics for grant effectiveness, but upon being awarded, grant money should by monitored for effectiveness by the awarding agencies. Additionally, agencies need to coordinate with each other at the federal level to ensure proper funding and adherence to uniform grant guidance.
#6 Community Coalitions
Local communities should establish coalitions or use existing ones to create and sustain partnerships between the public and private sectors, such as between local hospitals and other businesses with a need for preparedness.
#7 Local Fundraising
Communities should be encouraged to engage in continued fundraising towards emergency preparedness efforts at the local level. They should be prepared for standard emergencies, but also for catastrophic emergencies such as bioterrorism or epidemics such as anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox, tularemia, orviral hemorraghic fevers, chemical emergencies, radiation emergencies, and mass casualties.