Community Preparedness: The Municipal Role

Hazardous materials response teams train in Augusta. MEMA Photo.

 

Your community leaders are hard at work planning for emergencies. This summary will give you an idea about what they are working on, and some of the issues they are addressing.

Much more information is available at the Maine Emergency Management Agency ‘EMA Community’ website and from your County Emergency Management Director.

Your community might be anywhere in this process. Through it all, there is plenty of opportunity to get involved. Contact your County Emergency Management Director if you are interested in participating in the planning effort.

First, your municipal Emergency Management Director needed to rally support. There are many people involved in the emergency planning process.

  • Chief Executive
  • Emergency Services (police, fire, public works, etc.)
  • Social Services
  • Volunteer Agencies
  • Education representatives
  • Business representatives
  • Community members
  • and others!

To start -- They started by assuring support of elected officials. If the leaders lead, the rest will follow.

Do research -- They consider the laws and ordinances governing emergency planning. Built an understanding of any existing plans, your community's hazards, risks and vulnerabilities, and considered your geography and demography.

A Meeting -- They considered potential hazards and risks. What could happen in your community? What has happened? How likely is it to happen? Would there be loss of property or life?

What do they do? -- To best respond, they needed to evaluate their operations in an emergency. It was critical for them to answer the following questions…

  • Who is in charge? Where will they operate from? How will they communicate?
  • How will they warn the public?
  • How will they give ongoing information to the public?
  • How will they evacuate? Where will they shelter citizens?
  • How will the emergency services operate and cooperate?
  • How can they reduce our risk?

Can they handle it? -- It is important to consider the people (and the skills and training required); the facilities (for an operations center, shelters); the plans and procedures (operations plans, laws and ordinances); and the supplies (shelter kits, message forms, money).

What if they can’t do it? -- They developed (and may continue to develop) mutual aid agreements with other communities. They are recruiting and training volunteers in Community Emergency Response Teams. They solicited support from the business community.

Hazard-specific planning -- Remember those potential hazards? They considered each of them, and investigated how they would respond to each one. What will they need to do differently? How much notice will they have of the disaster?

Test it -- They will work with a County Emergency Management Director to test their new operations plan. This could be a tabletop exercise, or a full scale, live-action exercise, or a combination.

Evaluate it -- After an exercise (or a real disaster), they will evaluate the plan. What happened? Did the plan operate as intended? What could be improved?


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