General Preparedness

Policy Leaders need Appropriate Training

One of the most critical gaps we have in our overall preparedness, especially in small local governments, is the lack of training for elected officials and other policy group members. Too often we just expect them to make appropraite policy decisions in times of emergency, but we do not train them what those appropriate decisions are.

As my project for the Master Trainer Program at EMI I am attempting to address this and I will be teaching a 6 hour short course version in October in Washington State.

I have also linked an article from Risk and Insurance Magazine that I wrote.


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Similar Ideas [ 1 ]


  1. Comment
    Scott Paltall

    Agreed! Everyone in public leadership positions need to have emergency preparedness at least in the back of their minds.

  2. Comment
    Richard Hildreth ( Idea Submitter )

    An interesting issue I discovered while working on a Performance Needs Analysis for my class I am writing ... There do not appear to be performance standards for elected officials.....( I am working on a draft of some)

    We all agree they need to stay out of the weeds during response, but proactive leadership can also benifit in building stronger programs.

  3. Comment

    Consider leveraging the Meta-Leadership Summit for Preparedness, a national initiative that empowers business, government and nonprofit leaders to act together in times of crisis. More than 30 Summits are being held in cities nationwide through 2011. There is no cost to participate in the initiative, a partnership of CDC, the CDC Foundation, NPLI-Harvard School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


  4. Comment
    Richard Hildreth ( Idea Submitter )

    Thank you, I will check that out.

  5. Comment
    Glenn Zaring

    As one who is constantly working at the bottom end of the heap, I have to concur that the decision makers at the Village, City, County level do not have the background to make the right choices when it comes to EmOps. They can't speak the language; don't know the structure and don't realize that, "Every disaster is Local" and that they will be the ones who first have to respond...properly!

  6. Comment
    Richard Hildreth ( Idea Submitter )

    In addition to not speaking the language, it is critical they understand the importance of supporting strong programs (including training and exercise) and of making timely and appropriate policy desisions.

  7. Comment
    Wayne Rose

    I agree with the foregoing comments but in my experience of the last 7 years in preparedness, I've seen that whenever Emerg. Mgt courses are given for the city/county, local elected officials do not attend, for whatever reasons. In a moderately sized city such as ours (~125K), it seems the local officials defer Emer ops to others and don't want to get involved until the public forces them to take responsibility. There are plenty of opportunities here for local officials to take courses, learn about ICS, public health emergencies, fatality management, etc. but they just don't take advantage of it.

  8. Comment
    Richard Hildreth ( Idea Submitter )

    The Problem is most Training Programs are not written specific to the Policy Role. most elected officials get lost or bored learning portions of emergency managment that they will never get to do.

    As part of my Master Trainer Program at EMI, I am writing a Policy Specific training course, we are rolling out a 6 hour prototype this November in Pierce County Washington. Association of Washington Cities, Pierce County DEM and myself are partnering to offer it.

  9. Comment
    Peter Grandgeorge

    This is an excellent comment - local and state leaders do need this training to equip them to make critical decisions. Of more import to FEMA is the fundamental lack of training exhibited by federal leaders in the Deepwater Horizon event. Unified Command and NIMS seemed to be utterly foreign concepts to the senior elected and appointed federal leaders.

    I'd suggest the President and his Cabinet take ICS-100 through 400 plus IS-700. That might help.

  10. Comment
    Emmanuel Umoh

    Very good point. There is a tendency by leaders to assume that emergency preparedness is only meant for responders. Proper leadership training can lead to better responses and minimize recoveries.

  11. Comment
    Getro Mathieu

    Training, Early Warning System (EWS), communities preparedness are some important resources for preparadness and response. But we should ask us:

    If local governement has the capacity to mobilize, response, manage,resources,situations at all level in the limit of the district? Are people knowing the role of the local autorities? Are the Medical part ready to response in case of Children,pediatric, handicaps, surgery etc? How hospitals and HCWs are preparing and training for such situations? where we are weak for the response? What must be corrected,implemented, revised? Cities, municipalities, districts should be prepared for the response. Are the infrastructures are adapt for the common hazards? what kind of research should we consider to consolidate a good action for a good response? What risks do we have in the community and what level they are? Those questions can help to consider the point of consideration for the local autority in this matter.

    Note: We appreciate that the GNDR has as a priority" LOCAL GOVERNANCE in DRR".

  12. Comment
    Peter Grandgeorge

    Richard Hildreth's comment is very accurate. Elected leaders need their audience as a focus in the development and presentation of materials. As an elected official, you may face a disaster, but you have a thousand other issues that you will face. Training must be pertinent.

    I participated in a Texas Extension Engineering session for elected officials in my community, sitting between a mayor with 13 years of experience and a councilperson with 3 years. The instructors weren't elected officials, just senior emergency managers.

    Elected officials want to hear from those with similar experiences. Ask Ray Nagin to present, he's earned his stripes.

  13. Comment

    I agree there is a serious lack of educated officials at all levels of our government. People began taking Homeland Security serious after 9/11 and since then the Federal government has provided a National Response Framework that lower level government officials are not taking full advantage of. People are being thrown into positions who do not have the knowledge or education but have the minimum requirements to do the job.

    These people who we entrust to develop Emergency Management Policies and procedures in most cases never had formal training with the exception of various Incident Command Courses offered by FEMA online. We need develop a network of Emergency Management experts who are willing to help educate government officials and develop an education system that will ensure our policy makers are getting the necessary training and education. How can someone identify when something is wrong when they have never done it themselves?

  14. Comment
    Joseph Immermann

    Excellent comments!! Leaders at all levels MUST somehow be made to take this training despite their busy schedules and constant turnover. We have to generate a culture of preparedness that does not sit back and wait for the feds to come and fix everything. Citizens and civic leaders alike need to share this culture.

  15. Comment
    Richard Hildreth ( Idea Submitter )

    A big problem that I have seen in my research (I am writing a Plan of Instruction for a new training program "The Policy Role(s) in Incident Command and Emergency Management")is that most training programs are written from the Operational Side. A typical elected official attends a training and feels it is a waste of their time as "They" will not have to do what is taught .... They see thier role as very small and less important.

    What we need (and this is what I am working on)is a course that is written from the Policy Side at the start ..... As an Elected Official, this is why you need to support this culture of preparedness .... As an Elected Official, you need to make these types of Policy Decisions during times of emergency ...As an Elected Official, these are the Legal issues that may come into play (When do I order an Evacuation, when do I declare an emergency etc ....

  16. Comment
    William Ruting

    In my experience, local private and public officials don't - or won't - take the time to do training. They believe that disasters are such a remote occurrence that it is almost a waste of time to do a lot of training. My experience is both with local government (small city) and hospitals. Hospitals typically allow less that 4 hours for a training program.

  17. Comment
    Richard Hildreth ( Idea Submitter )

    Again, I do not think it is as much as not wanting to take the time to do the training, but that the training be appropriate for them. If all the programs that you had access to were based around a WMD event and focused on Law Enforcement, you might not have as much interest.

    I have been an elected official for 9 years. In my time now as an instructor for ICS and other programs, I have had many good discussions with other electeds .... they might not see how the operational side of ICS relates, but if I talk about the legal issues they must concider in calling for a Manditory Evacuation they have a different level of interest.

  18. Comment
    Greg T

    Personally, I don't think this is a realistic hope - it won't happen. Policy Leaders have one focus, and that's keeping themselves in power. The real way to do this is to enable a professional Civil Defense system to function again, and make it a separate agency. DHS itself is too large and fragmented to function, but the same can be said for many of our agencies at this time. We need to slim down, and get more professional.

  19. Comment
    Getro Mathieu

    Policy Leaders even they have one focus should be concern by the accountability of their decisions and actions. The best way to know about decision and action is Information. The training is important, it's a fact that a professional Civil defense system is establish and ready to manage or prepare action, but How the Policy Leaders will be able to mobilize mechanisms of the system with no sufficient information? Maybe you'll say that the systems establish will furnish him sufficient information, but it had been prove that with information you have the time to correct the time and also prevent attitude,etc... With a little information about for the less how function the system. When we consider accountability we cannot pass over the information need to act adequately. Local capacity=Leadership=Coordination=Prevention=Resilience.

  20. Comment
    Richard Hildreth ( Idea Submitter )

    A point that is being missed is the fact that Deligation of Authority, Evacuation (even if it is previously deligated) etc cannot be made by Civil Defence Authorities (with the exception of being under Marshal Law) .... Also Proactive Leadership by elected officials is not just needed in the Reponse phase, it is needed in all four phases.

    Elected officials need to understand (and at least locally it is working here)that Emergency Management, like risk management is not just a plan but a Mind Set .... it is intigrated into almost every thing that a leader works on. From Land use to finance issues .....

  21. Comment
    Richard Hildreth ( Idea Submitter )

    BTW, the 6 hour version of the course I am writing " The Policy Role in Incident Command and Emergency Management" will be held on November 12 in Pierce County, Washington. It is cosponsored by the Association of Washington Cities and Pierce County DEM -

    If anyone knows elected leaders in Washington State, or if you would like to discuss this idea on how it can be incorparated in their area feel free to contact me at

  22. Comment
    Pisonth Keyuravong

    I agreed with this idea, I hit the disagreed button by mistake and do not know how to reverse the action.

    In case of dirty bomb attack there will never be enough personal nor health care facility to accomadate the radiation injuries. People in community should know the nature of radiation injury and know what to do. They can help other injuries or at least be self sufficient.