Take a serious look at what The Ojai Valley is doing with our grass-roots, bottom-up, annual Emergency Preparedness & Communications Exercise -- Ojai OK! Drill. Our main web-site is http://okdrill.org. The next Annual drill is Wednesday, Sept 15th at 7PM PT and this year we're working on simultaneous exercises throughout Ventura County that have aggregate counts communicated via Ham Radio back to Ojai EOC.
This dynamic communications exercise involves the entire community, promotes a dialog of Emergency Preparedness, gets CERT out into the neighborhoods, and enables Amateur Radio Operators to work on their ICS skills as they relay aggregated information to a central EOC.
This year we're including other groups from outside Ojai Valley and using our CountyWide Ham Radio Repeater to tie remote groups together. This drill has been one major reason why our CERT group has increased strength, viability and visibility. Ojai Valley has added nearly 100 new Ham Operators in last 2 years. CERT Classes are always full.
To answer the three questions:
1. Get the local NGO communities involved and support them in providing key information up to the Professional First Responders. It took a couple years, but the Ojai Valley Volunteer groups (CERT, Ham Radio, Red Cross) have earned the respect of our various Professional First Responder groups because we effectively integrate with them and behave professionally. The Triad of CERT, Ham Radio and Red Cross always work together, cross-pollinate training programs, and have a lot of fun working on projects (July 4th Parade, Ojai Day, etc).
2. I haven't experienced any policies and guidance yet, so I don't have a point of reference. I think the more the community truly understands the purpose and the response plan for Government, then they will go back to practicing self-empowerment and tend to not rely on Government response. We've been coached that "the calvary is not coming" - we're not expecting Craig to show up on a white horse... In Ojai, we're working towards a model of FEMA and the Government eventually showing up to be a bonus, not a guarantee. This takes time and commitment, though to be truly effective. Of course, when you do show up we'll be glad for the help and provide all the information we've collected from the ground.
3. The CERT program, typically 21 hours long, begins the Emergency Preparedness conversation. Finding ways to support ongoing preparedness/refresher programs that are initiated by the communities is worth a look. In other words, support those communities that are showing a grass-roots eagerness to be actually doing something to fend for themselves -- the other communities will eventually catch on.