Chapter Appendix A - Recommendations
Section Citizen and Community Preparedness
Critical Challenge: Citizen and Community Preparedness
Lesson Learned - The Federal government, working with State, local, NGO, and private sector partners, should combine the various disparate citizen preparedness programs into a single national campaign to promote and strengthen citizen and community preparedness. This campaign should be developed in a manner that appeals to the American people, incorporates the endorsement and support of prominent national figures, focuses on the importance of individual and community responsibility for all-hazard disaster preparedness, provides meaningful and comprehensive education, training and exercise opportunities applicable to all facets of the American population, and establishes specialized preparedness programs for those less able to provide for themselves during disasters such as children, the ill, the disabled, and the elderly.
119. DHS should make citizen and community preparedness a National priority. To facilitate this initiative, Cabinet Secretaries and other prominent National public figures (e.g. the Surgeon General) should serve as spokespersons to promote citizen and community preparedness. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Education, United States Surgeon General, and other National public figures, should publicize the importance of the community and individual preparedness. The goal of this effort should be to have citizens better understand the role and limitations of government and to encourage individual preparedness.
a. In addition, DHS should continue to research means to lower the barriers to personal preparedness and adapt outreach and instructional materials to address the findings. Public awareness messaging should shift to include more substantive information within the message, as opposed to telling citizens they need to “do” something. For example, the “Stop, Drop, and Roll” campaign used so successfully in fire safety as part of the “Learn Not to Burn” program embedded the message and provided citizens with an action. Other successful campaigns include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Click It or Ticket” program which fines drivers for not wearing their seatbelt, and the “Buckle Up America” campaign which prescribes proper use of seat belt and child safety seats.
b. DHS should leverage the success of public education conducted by fire departments nationwide which has reduced the loss of lives and property by fire. The Citizen Corps public education effort should be integrated with the DHS’s United States Fire Administration so that preparedness efforts of local fire departments can be expanded to include citizen and community preparedness. Additionally, DHS should leverage the success of the USAonwatch program to form a National Network of Community Watches comprised of citizen volunteers to develop best practices, a common doctrine and metrics for all-hazards community preparedness.
c. The newly created Office of Public and Community Preparedness should continue to assist with implementing National strategies for citizen preparedness and communities. However, this office should be removed from the Office of Grants and Training, so as to focus solely on homeland security policies, plans, strategies, and guidance at the Federal, State, and local levels which highlight citizen and community preparedness.
120. DHS should consider increasing grant funding for citizen and community preparedness programs and where program metrics demonstrate effectiveness, DHS should consider allowing greater use of Federal funds for Citizen Corps Council staff positions at the State and local level within the FY07 grant program. State and local governments generally do not have full time staff assigned to support this critical component of community preparedness. The availability of full-time positions at the State and local level for the Citizen Corps to coordinate the government and community planning is critical. Locations with full-time staff assigned to this tend to have developed robust plans. While Citizen Corps has existed since 2002, funding for the program has not been consistent.
121. DHS should build baseline skills and capabilities needed by all citizens and communities DHS needs to establish a comprehensive list of skills and capabilities to assess how well citizens are prepared utilizing resources such as the Rand Corporations “Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks.” These baseline skills include assembling preparedness kits, developing communications plans, training in basic first aid, and learning how to react to a variety of hazards and disasters. Additionally, the DHS should develop a process to evaluate national progress toward improved citizen preparedness capabilities through the use of the Target Capabilities List and established metrics, evaluated annually as a condition of receiving Homeland Security grant funding.
122. DHS should develop tools for State and local governments to use in order to prepare, train, exercise, and engage citizens and communities in all areas of preparedness in FY06. Special consideration should be given to persons with disabilities, health problems, language barriers, income barriers, and unaccompanied minors. Planning also needs to contemplate household pets and other animals. Developing these tools at the National level, in partnership with non-governmental organizations, private sector, emergency responders, and experts on vulnerable populations, will achieve economies of scale. Providing tools, such as instructor guides and participant handbooks for classroom based instruction, identified standardized skills and capabilities, and strategic planning guidance, will elevate National preparedness without depleting scarce resources at the local level.
Although DHS and other organizations already have established websites to assist with community preparedness (e.g.,www.ready.gov, www.prepare.org), there is no measure to evaluate if they have increased overall citizen preparedness.
123. The Department of Education (DOEd), working with DHS, should include individual and community preparedness into current elementary and secondary educational programs. The DOEd should recommend funding to better student preparedness initiatives and disseminate teaching materials. Schools should use materials and curricula developed by DHS and the American Red Cross to prepare students. Students should be required to take courses in first aid, disaster preparedness or other related topics as a part of their curriculum starting in FY07.
School programs on littering, recycling, anti-smoking and seat belt safety have demonstrated their effectiveness at helping to achieve National community goals beyond just students. We should build on these successful initiatives to educate and prepare our children and their families for the threats of the 21st Century.
124. DHS should immediately highlight preparedness best practices through the DHS Lessons Learned and Information Sharing website (www.llis.gov)and the Citizen Corps Council’s National conference. By identifying best practices during exercises and audits, Citizen Corps Councils will be able to keep abreast of the emerging trends in citizen preparedness.
125. Working with the National Governors Association, DHS should encourage the establishment of State tax relief holidays throughout the year to allow citizens to purchase disaster preparedness supplies. Providing periodic tax breaks throughout the year would encourage people to purchase emergency supplies. These tax holidays should consider the State of Florida’s model in defining what types of supplies would qualify. The government should also work closely with the private sector to build “preparedness packs” in various sizes (individual through family size) for sale at low cost, much as the American Red Cross has done.