by Rebecca DeSantis, content coordinator, ICMA
September is National Disaster Preparedness Month, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses this month to remind us of an important reality: disasters will happen. City and county officials know firsthand the speed and severity in which disasters can strike. In fact, according to the ICMA 2015 survey on Local Government Sustainability Practices, 76 percent of local governments have responded to a major disaster in the past 15 years.
Our communities face many different types of disasters that can have a profound effect on their jurisdictions. From the survey, the top three disasters that communities responded to in the past 15 years are floods, blizzards or ice storms, and hurricanes. Both flooding and blizzards were reported by more than 50 percent of respondents, and hurricanes were reported by 23.7 percent. Responding to disasters is an important role of local governments, but their role in preparing for a disaster is just as important.
In learning from both natural and man-made disasters, many local governments have created plans to mitigate the effect of disasters on their communities. The survey showed that 86.9 percent of respondents reported that their jurisdiction has a hazard mitigation plan or an emergency evacuation/relocation plan. Of those who reported having a plan, however, only 68.6 percent reported addressing issues of at-risk (low income, seniors, etc.) residents. It is not only important to have a mitigation plan for the community, but it is imperative that localities think about how their plan will specifically support those who may need additional assistance.
Resources on Disaster Preparedness
ICMA offers resources on a variety of topics related to disaster preparedness:
Preparing for the 2018 Hurricane Season. Read about how to prepare for the hurricane season before it strikes from author Ron Carlee, director of the Center for Regional Excellence, Strome College of Business, Old Dominion University.
Winter Weather Resources from ICMA. Check out ICMA’s winter weather resources, including a case study on Buffalo, New York, and tips on social media posting during a storm.
Flood Mitigation and Management Resources. Use this article to find out about all the resources ICMA has on flood management, including links to guides and resources from FEMA.
ICMA 2015 Local Government Sustainability Practices survey. Check out the entire survey report to gain insights into the use of sustainable practices, including disaster preparedness, happening in our communities.
What Would You Do to Keep Your Community Prepared? This article highlights the PM magazine April 2017 issue that covers community preparedness for disasters in depth.
Planning for an Emergency: Strategies for Identifying and Engaging At-Risk Groups. The Center for Disease Control offers this comprehensive guide on supporting at-risk groups during disasters.