DHS releases first preparedness goal for national emergency response

FEMA’s Craig Fugate

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency unveiled the first building block for a national coordinated emergency response plan on Oct. 7.

The preparedness goal is a unified list of identified threats and the kinds of things governments can do to prevent or mitigate them. It is designed to drive local and state emergency response plans, as well as the federal government’s response, providing a common set of considerations and considered response actions. The commonality will allow for better resource allocation and coordination among those government entities, according to DHS.

President Obama asked the government last April to prioritize the threats facing the country and to produce a prevention and mitigation plan to meet them under Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 8: National Preparedness. Responses were due within 180 days of Obama’s request. The goal announced by FEMA Director Craig Fugate of the National Preparedness Goal at an emergency managers’ conference in Austin, TX is the first response to the directive.

The goal sets the vision for nationwide preparedness and identifies the core capabilities and targets necessary to achieve preparedness across five mission areas laid out under PPD 8: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery, said DHS.

“As we work to build a more prepared nation, we must work with the entire community –the public and private sectors, faith-based and non-profit organizations, and most importantly the public,” said Fugate. “This goal recognizes that reality, and we will continue to work with all our stakeholders to implement PPD 8 and build a more prepared and resilient nation.”

PPD 8 is aimed at strengthening the country’s security and resilience through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters, said the president’s directive in April. It added that national preparedness is the shared responsibility of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and individual citizens. The directive was intended to galvanize action by the Federal Government and at facilitating an integrated, all-of-Nation, capabilities-based approach to preparedness.

According to DHS, the preparedness goal announced by Fugate on Oct. 7 is designed to prepare the U.S. for the risks that will severely tax collective capabilities and resources. Each community, said DHS, contributes to the goal by assessing and preparing for the risks that are most relevant and urgent for them individually, which in turn strengthens collective security and resilience. National preparedness will also be strengthened through collaboration and cooperation with international partners, including working closely with our neighbors Canada and Mexico, with whom we share common borders, said the agency.

PPD 8 called for the development and maintenance of a National Preparedness Goal to define the core capabilities necessary to prepare for the specific types of incidents positing the greatest risk of security to the nation. This goal builds extensively on prior work of various stakeholder groups from around the nation, draws upon lessons learned from large-scale and catastrophic events and represent input from all stakeholders.

The goal classifies the most significant risks to the U.S. as:

Natural hazards, including hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, wildfires, and floods, present a significant and varied risk across the country.

A virulent strain of pandemic influenza could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, affect millions more, and result in economic loss. Additional human and animal infectious diseases, including those previously undiscovered, may present significant risks.

Technological and accidental hazards, such as dam failures or chemical substance spills or releases, have the potential to cause extensive fatalities and severe economic impacts, and the likelihood of occurrence may increase due to aging infrastructure.

Terrorist organizations or affiliates may seek to acquire, build, and use weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Conventional terrorist attacks, including those by “lone actors” employing explosives and armed attacks, present a continued risk to the Nation.

Cyber attacks can have their own catastrophic consequences and can also initiate other hazards, such as power grid failures

As directed by PPD 8, said DSH, the goal will be reviewed regularly to ensure consistency with applicable policies, evolving conditions and the National Incident Management System.