Let me explain the ‘pyramid’ that we call the National Emergency Management System:
Every citizen in this country is part of a national emergency management system that is all about protection – the protection of people and property from all types of hazards. Think of the national emergency management system as a pyramid with you, the citizen, forming the base of the structure. At this level, you have a responsibility to protect yourself and your family by knowing what to do before, during, and after an event.
Before - Know the risks and danger signs. Purchase insurance, including flood insurance, which is not part of your homeowner’s policy.
Develop plans for what to do.
Assemble a disaster supplies kit.Volunteer to help others.
During - Put you plan into action. Help others. Follow the advice and guidance of officials in charge of the event.
After - Repair damaged property. Take steps to prevent or reduce future loss.
It is sometimes necessary to turn to others within the local community for help. The local level is the second tier of the preparedness pyramid, and is made up of paid employees and volunteers from the private and public sectors. These individuals are engaged in preventing emergencies from happening and in being prepared to respond if something does occur. Most emergencies are handled at the local level, which puts a tremendous responsibility on the community for taking care of its citizens.
Among the responsibilities faced by local officials are:
• Identifying hazards and assessing potential risk to the community.
• Enforcing building codes, zoning ordinances, and land-use management programs.
• Coordinating emergency plans to ensure a quick and effective response.
• Fighting fires and responding to hazardous materials incidents.
• Establishing warning systems.
• Stocking emergency supplies and equipment.
• Assessing damage and identifying needs.
• Evacuating the community to safer locations.
•Taking care of the injured.
• Sheltering those who cannot remain in their homes.
• Aiding recovery efforts.
If support and resources are needed beyond what the local level can provide, the community can request assistance from the state, which is the third tier. The state may be able to provide supplemental resources such as money, equipment, and personnel to close the gap between what is needed and what is available at the local level.
The state also coordinates the plans of the various jurisdictions so that activities do not interfere or conflict with each other. To ensure personnel know what to do and efforts are in agreement, the state my offer a program that provides jurisdictions the opportunity to train and exercise together.
At the top of the pyramid is the federal government, which can provide resources to augment state and local efforts. These resources can be in the form of:
• Public education materials that can be used to prepare the public for protecting itself from hazards.
• Financial grants for equipment, training, exercises, personnel, and programs.
• Grants and loans to help communities respond to and recover from disasters so severe that the President of the United States has deemed them beyond state and local capabilities.
• Research findings that can help reduce losses from disaster.
• Technical assistance to help build stronger programs.
The national emergency management system is built on shared responsibilities and active participation at all levels of the pyramid. The whole system begins with you, the citizen, and your ability to follow good emergency management practices – whether at home, work, or other locations.
“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is.
The way that you cope with it is what makes the difference.”