1. Was it easy or difficult to find your community’s plan? Describe how long it took, or in the extreme case, that you never actually found it online.
I headed to Google, typed in “(city’s name) emergency plan” and the top result was our local emergency department’s webpage. The second result was a PDF of the county’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP). Overall my search process took less than a minute.
2. Describe one thing you think shows your community is well-prepared in case of a disaster
Having an emergency management department definitely shows our county emphasizes disaster preparedness. The department’s home page has a section titled “Information & Helpful Links to Prepare, Plan, and Protect your Family in a Disaster” with useful links for people. Some of the links include daily situation reports, evacuation zone information with routes & shelters, public information, and information on the local FEMA-sponsored Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Upon reviewing the CEMP I learned the Department of Public Safety conducts a minimum of one full-scale and two functional exercises per year involving all agencies listed in the plan.
3. Describe one way you think an improvement could be made to your community’s plan.
The CEMP is over 800 pages in length, with most pages being walls of single-spaced text. While I appreciate thoroughness, it is unrealistic to assume every person involved in a disaster can or will be intimately familiar with such a lengthy report.
While helping draft Fairbanks North Star Borough’s emergency plans I ran into a similar issue: where do I draw the line between chapters and sub-sections being considered detailed versus excessive? My answer was to make the first part of the document predominantly text, in vivid detail for administrative personnel. Part two of the document consisted of annexes with quick reference guides in a checklist format. For instance, if the disaster was a flood, you look in the table of contents for “floods” and you are directed to two pages, one for reading specifics, and one with a checklist.
4. Answer the following question: Do you feel better or worse about how well your community is prepared after reading its’ plan?
I feel equally prepared after reading my county’s emergency plan. My main concern prior to reading was related to logistics. I do not think the primary artery used for transportation en masse on a daily basis is adequate for the amount of traffic in our area. After reading the transportation section I learned my county has memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with entities from two nearby bases that can be activated in times of disaster. These MOUs include the use of shallow boats and helicopters with personnel to operate each. The intent is to provide medical evacuations or rescue stranded residents, but the population density would overwhelm available resources if anything close to Katrina were to occur.