Natural disasters—earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and other potentially devastating events—occur in all parts of the world and frequently cause loss of life and massive disruptions in the physical, social, and economic infrastructure of the stricken areas.
ICMA has a long history of providing leadership to help jurisdictions in the United States mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. And ICMA International has drawn on the experience and knowledge base of U.S. practitioners and applied them widely—in Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and Africa.
We have provided assistance in disaster mitigation and preparedness for vulnerable communities and, where disaster has struck, we have assisted in recovery and restoration of basic municipal services after initial response efforts have stabilized the areas.
Utilizing an extensive network of well-qualified local practitioners and experienced international consultants, ICMA International emphasizes sustainability, capacity-building, and institutional strengthening in order to help communities become more disaster-resistant. Here are some examples:
- ICMA has become a leader in addressing the threat of disasters stemming from climate change, particularly sea level rise and flooding. Climate change is one of three areas of concentration for ICMA's USAID-funded CityLinks™ program. As the holder of the CityLinks Leader with Associates award, ICMA has supported partnerships and global learning networks focused on climate change adaptation in Africa, Asia, and the United States: The Durban - Southeast Florida Climate Change Partnership, the Durban-Dar es Salaam Climate Change Partnership, and the ASEAN Cities Climate Change Partnership.
- After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, ICMA implemented the Fire/EMS Station Procedures and Training Plan Development program, which assessed the needs of ten new fire stations in the country, recommended an organizational structure, designed training for personnel, and created a prioritized equipment list for the network of new stations.
- In Guatemala, ICMA assessed flooding vulnerability and designed training in disaster mitigation and response for flood-prone communities. The program was conducted under the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Preparedness contract awarded to ICMA by the U.S. Southern Command to build the capacity of local and regional organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean to prepare for, respond to, and recover quickly from disasters.
- In the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, a CityLinks team composed of ICMA staff, officials from three Florida cities, and representatives from the Urban Management Centre (a local organization that works in collaboration with ICMA to professionalize urban management in India) worked with the cities of Cuddalore and Nagapattinam to help prepare for and mitigate future disasters along the southern Indian coastline, as well as to build the capacity of the municipal governments to provide basic services to their citizens. Through the Post Tsunami Recovery Program, ICMA helped the two cities rebuild parks, improve drainage systems to mitigate seasonal flooding, and develop computer-aided design (CAD) base maps to facilitate evacuation and respond to vulnerable populations more quickly in case of another disaster.
- Also after the 2004 tsunami, ICMA provided emergency recovery assistance to local governments in Sri Lanka, assisting with restoring financial management systems and basic service delivery.
- In Honduras, after Hurricane Mitch, ICMA brought together community stakeholders (nongovernmental organizations, government, business, and citizen representatives) to conduct a needs assessment and set priorities for hurricane redevelopment/recovery projects. The team established and implemented a competitive bidding process and oversaw thirteen projects, including the construction of homes, latrines, schools, health and vocational training centers, and other facilities. ICMA provided assistance to two communities of displaced persons, building sewer lines, improving roads, and financing other vital infrastructure.
- ICMA arranged a partnership between the city of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, and Oldsmar, Florida, to help Dire Dawa develop an emergency operations plan.
Extensive experience in the United States has laid the foundation for ICMA’s international work; for many years the organization has been in the forefront of helping local government officials plan for and respond to disasters:
- ICMA is the publisher of Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Government, a comprehensive practitioner’s resource and textbook that is highly regarded as the premier book in the field. Together, ICMA Press and the Knowledge Network accessible through the ICMA website offer dozens of resources for dealing with disasters and emergencies.
- An ICMA white paper, A Networked Approach to Improvements in Emergency Management, outlines a collaborative and coordinated approach as an alternative to the traditional “command and control” systems put into place to respond to disasters.
- Partnering with the National League of Cities, and with the support of the Department of Homeland Security, ICMA has provided a leadership training seminar titled “Crisis Leadership for Local Officials,” a two-year, in-depth training program for local leaders.
- Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ICMA provided disaster recovery assistance to several Gulf Coast-area communities (including Pass Christian and Long Beach, Mississippi). In 2006, with support from Fannie Mae, ICMA recruited a group of Florida managers to provide the city of Pascagoula, Mississippi, with longer-term recovery efforts, such as inspections and code enforcement. The Pascagoula/ICMA/Fannie Mae collaborative supported the organization of local government, nonprofit, and private sector networks for emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.
- ICMA cosponsored Restoration conferences in the city of New Orleans in 2006 and 2007 to explore approaches to community and economic recovery after a disaster.
- Other ICMA workshops, webcasts, and publications have presented information on preparing for pandemic influenza.
- With funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ICMA conducted free training in vulnerability assessment and emergency response training for community water systems.