NSC: FEMA Deputy Administrator Promotes a Culture of Preparedness

During a keynote speech and press briefing at the National Safety Council's 95th Annual Congress and Expo in Chicago, FEMA Deputy Administrator of National Preparedness Dennis Schrader addressed the nation's emergency preparedness efforts. Schrader stressed that citizens and communities must approach injury prevention and national preparedness by building awareness at the local level.

“National preparation is the result of individual actions,” he said. “It can’t come out of Washington. It’s those folks reaching out to state and local governments … that’s how we’re going to get this job done.”

Schrader also commented on the National Response Framework, the successor to the National Response Plan, which focuses on response and short-term recovery and facilitates all-hazard preparedness from local communities to all levels of government. According to Schrader, the National Response Framework, as well as creating partnerships between organizations like FEMA and NSC, will play a vital role in helping the nation develop comprehensive emergency preparedness.

“Keeping this country safe is not the responsibility of one organization,” Schrader said. “We need to be innovative. We have to work smarter. And what better way than to partner with organizations like [NSC] to leverage what we’re doing.”

Schrader said FEMA has already developed partnerships with organizations like the American Red Cross, and recognizes the benefits a partnership with NSC will offer. “We need to think about strategic partners,” Schrader said. “NSC is one with tremendous opportunity.”

“The cultures of safety and security are very similar,” he added. “Many of the principles that go into a safe workplace in our homes [also] go into emergency preparedness.”

Schrader: Katrina was Unprecedented

Schrader also asserted during his keynote speech the FEMA is better prepared today to face crises like Hurricane Katrina. If New Orleans experienced a repeat of Hurricane Katrina tomorrow, Schrader said, FEMA would be equipped to respond more successfully, “no question about it.”

“Katrina was actually an unprecedented event,” Schrader said. “What it really has done has told us we need to expand our thinking when it comes to catastrophic events.” He pointed to Hurricane Dean, the Category 5 hurricane that moved through the Atlantic Ocean in August, to demonstrate FEMA’s current level of response.

“We were fully mobilized,” Schrader said, and described the preparation efforts for this hurricane as coming from “the kind of FEMA we want to see.”

When faced with criticism that the government waited too long to offer aid after Katrina, Schrader acknowledged that the Katrina After Action report provided 125 recommendations, but he was quick to encourage constructive suggestions instead of laying blame.

“Given the enormity of event, pointing fingers is not helpful,” Schrader said. “What we need to say is, ‘Okay, how do we fix this?’ We’ve made it very clear we are rethinking our role.”

Safety Education Campaigns

“Preparedness is really about empowering citizens to protect themselves,” Schrader said, and noted that public education campaigns could be a vital part of increasing national preparedness and injury prevention awareness. He cited the seatbelt campaign to demonstrate how much influence such a program could have on the public.

“We’re far safer as a nation because of that campaign’s success,” he said of the seatbelt campaign. “My hope is that we can learn to change the way Americans think about preparedness. It should come to mind as easily as stop, drop and roll.”

Schrader also suggested creating alternative infrastructure in communities for better emergency preparedness. “If we reach out to folks and say this is a priority, we expect people to answer that call,” he said. “People want to know, want to help, and just need an opportunity.”

Schrader urged citizens and communities to take advantage of FEMA resources and, most importantly, to share this information within their communities to train others. Reexamining the structure of emergency response at the local level, Schrader explains, is the best way to become prepared.

“With this challenge comes the opportunity to change the course of American history,” he said. “Help us build a culture of preparedness in America.

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