IAEM Responds to DHS Nationwide Plan Review

On June 16, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued findings from a national assessment of the country's catastrophic planning capabilities, prompting the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) to weigh in.

Responding to directives from President George W. Bush and Congress, the Nationwide Plan Review (NPR) looked at whether existing emergency operations plans for states and urban areas are sufficient for managing a catastrophic event. The review also presents conclusions on actions needed by the federal government to improve and coordinate planning. (See "Review of Nationwide Preparedness Finds Evacuation Planning, Resource Management, Lacking.")

The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) says it found the vast majority of the information making up both phases of the NPR is actually the result of "great effort and honest self-assessment by state and local emergency managers." Further, IAEM notes the personnel producing the data are funded primarily by the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) – a grant that is not a part of the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) or the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP).

The main value of the NPR appears to have been in the contractor gathering the information centrally, on behalf of DHS, according to IAEM.

The group says that future assessments should include an examination of the assumptions underlying the questions – mainly a look at the need for massive evacuations of urban areas and entire states when compared to the much more frequent and realistic threats and risks faced by local governments outside the coastal area.

"It's a question of probability versus vulnerability," said IAEM First Vice President Mike Selves, Johnson County, Kan. "While we do have concern about catastrophic events, we have an obligation to spend our limited time, effort and resources planning for those events our ongoing hazard analyses indicate should be our highest priorities."

IAEM and other emergency management organizations have consistently emphasized that people are one of the most critical elements of increased preparedness. In this case, it is the state and local emergency managers who accomplish the planning and coordination needed to effectively prepare for disasters and emergencies.

According to Robert Bohlmann of York County, Me., chair of IAEM's Government Affairs Committee: "This national assessment provides the most compelling argument so far for a significant increase in EMPG and the planning and preparedness capability only it can provide."

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