Very simply local emergency management professionals and FEMA should engage in an aggressive PR campaign to inform people on what training, grants, and other resources are available to emergency management professionals and the general public.
It has come to my attention after reviewing most of the ideas on this website that awareness in and outside of emergency management is slim to none. I’ve seen a lot of requests that ask for training that already exists through FEMA or implementation issues that is really up to the local jurisdiction. Others have stated things could be improved by increased in funding and perhaps FEMA and DHS should relax funding restrictions and requirements as others have suggested. However no matter what profession or field you go study people can always use more money, people, and resources.
Emergency management is no doubt a tough job as you have a million different duties pulling you in different directions. However too often we find ourselves in the weeds making technical decisions that are required. Unfortunately this usually comes at the expense of spreading awareness of the importance of emergency management and what is does and offers the community. Most emergency management shops consist of one of maybe a handful of people. Only by recognizing that we cannot do everything ourselves and that responding to and recovering from an emergency is a community effort can we overcome this short coming.
So how do we do this?
Locally you can engage the media to showcase the plans being developed and their benefits or an exercise being conducted. Speaking engagements can be setup in community centers, local businesses, schools, and other locations stressing the importance of preparedness and what the everyday person can do to drastically improve the readiness of the community. Utilize social media, the internet, and advertising (in local businesses, television, radio, or the internet) to spread the message. Most of these things don’t have to cost a lot of money or anything at all. For example most community centers don’t utilize all their space all the time so by simply asking for the space without cost in exchange for promoting the center’s assistance in the engagement or through other channels is a possibility. By requesting local businesses to display preparedness brochures at their checkouts in exchange for displaying their business in a “Partners in Preparedness” section of the Emergency Management office’s website or hand outs would be a good trade off.
FEMA can assist by providing a development track for emergency management professionals. For example EMI has numerous training courses but they should be taken in what order? What do I need to know as an everyday citizen? What about as an emergency planner? Putting together a track for the most common users of the training would be very helpful instead of just a long list of courses. FEMA can also utilize its federal funding to develop professional plug and play television, radio, and internet advertisements for local, state, or even national use. Plug and play means developing an advertisement that doesn’t formally refer to any specific agency and leaves a blank space at the end for the addition of a “brought to you by…” statement. A similar process can be used by FEMA to develop hand outs for the general public.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head and I’m sure others can add more. But FEMA and local Emergency Management offices really needs to tell everyone who we are, what we do, and how we benefit the community otherwise we risk becoming seen as another government department that eats up tax dollars.