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2014 FEMA Report on National Preparedness Offers Interesting Insights

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FEMA generates the National Preparedness Report to summarize progress in building, sustaining, and delivering the 31 core capabilities described in the National Preparedness Goal. This year’s report also offers an opportunity to evaluate gains that whole community partners, including all levels of government, private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based organizations, communities, and individuals, have made in preparedness, and it identifies where challenges remain. The stated intent of the report is to “provide the Nation- not just the Federal Government—with practical insights on core capabilities that can inform decisions about program priorities, resource allocation, and community actions.”

Key Findings

The key findings outline overarching national trends (reprinted as written in the report):

New Approach to Recovery:
Major events, such as Hurricane Sandy and the severe 2012–2013 drought, have served as catalysts for change in national preparedness, drawing clearer links between post-disaster recovery and pre-disaster mitigation activities.

National Areas for Sustainment:
Continued progress has resulted in several mature capabilities across multiple mission areas that require ongoing sustainment to meet expected future needs.

National Areas for Improvement:
Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Systems, Health and Social Services, and Housing remained national areas for improvement. Long-term Vulnerability Reduction is a newly identified national area for improvement.

Emergency Policy and Planning Initiatives:
New national policy and planning initiatives are focusing efforts to address areas for improvement in preparedness and national risk priorities.

Impact of Budget Uncertainties:
Budget uncertainties have created challenges for preparedness initiatives, resulting in increased emphasis on preparedness innovations and whole community engagement.
Self-assessment Results from States and Territories: States and territories assessed their capabilities similar to levels reported in 2012, with the highest self-assessment scores in the common core capabilities and the Response mission area. States and territories also reported the most annual progress in Operational Coordination, Planning, and Intelligence and Information Sharing.

Integrating Tribal Partners:
The Nation is integrating tribal partners more systematically into preparedness. However, challenges remain for Federal agencies and tribal nations to increase engagement and expand training opportunities on relevant policies.
FEMA also identifies five core-capability areas for sustainment in multiple mission areas. Agencies have demonstrated these capabilities in assessments, exercises, and real-world events. These capabilities are relatively mature capabilities that results indicate may face future capability gaps.

Interdiction and Disruption:
International and domestic initiatives have made it more difficult for malicious actors to obtain nuclear and radiological materials, and have raised awareness of how they acquire bomb-making materials.
On-scene Security and Protection: In 2013, the security community continued to make progress in modifying tactics to better address active shooter events. Additionally, Federal agencies established availability requirements, plans, and resources to support deployment of Federal Law Enforcement officers in major incidents. However, over 60 percent of states and territories cited emerging training gaps due to personnel turnover and attrition as a major concern.

Operational Communications:
For the third year in a row, states and territories assessed Operational Communications among their highest-rated capabilities. Although one of the most widely exercised core capabilities in the past five years, Operational Communications faces future uncertainty with large-scale technology transitions to Next Generation 9-1-1 and Public Safety Broadband, which provide enhanced voice and data communication capabilities.

Public and Private Services and Resources:
Wildfire suppression capabilities are relatively mature, with the National Firefighting Mobilization System capable of moving wildland firefighting and associated resources nationwide in 24 to 48 hours. A trend toward
larger and more complex wildfires increased demand for these capabilities.

Public Health and Medical Services:
States and territories identified Public Health and Medical Services as a high-rated core capability in training and exercises. Meanwhile, state and local public health agencies face continued budget uncertainties. DHS also identified biological concerns—including bioterrorism, pandemics, foreign animal diseases, and other agricultural concerns—as a top homeland security risk.

Other Findings of Interest

Forty-three percent of states and territories reported making the most progress in the Operational Coordination core capability in 2013, while 91 percent reported that addressing any remaining gaps in this core capability is mostly or entirely a state responsibility.

Eighty-five percent of states and territories identified planning as a high-priority capability and sixty-three percent expressed the need to continue to address training gaps resulting from turnover, attrition, or other staffing situations. The states and territories identified a need for compliance assessments of existing plans and expanded participation in the planning process as a capability gap.

The states and territories assessed operational coordination in their self-assessment, but half of them said exercises involving operational coordination should focus on large-scale scenarios that identify breaking points.

Ratings for planning, training, and exercises in Forensics and Attribution increased slightly. Remaining gaps in this area include addressing training needs from staff turnover and expanding participation in planning efforts. In 2012, 37 percent of states and territories assessed themselves as a 1 or 2 on the 5-point scale, with 5 being most prepared. In 2013, that percentage dropped to 31 percent.

The BioSense program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) incorporates emergency department data gathered from state and local health departments into a cloud-based, syndromic surveillance system. In 2013, CDC expanded BioSense coverage and completed 51 data use agreements with BioSense partners, exceeding the annual goal by nearly 60 percent.

In fiscal year 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency added 10 new RadNet monitors, bringing the national total to 134. RadNet is a national network of monitoring stations in 100 U.S. cities that collects air, precipitation, drinking water, and milk samples for analysis of radioactivity.

Cyber security remained the lowest scoring capability. Over 60 percent of states and territories noted a need to develop targeted annexes to their existing cybersecurity plans, to address training gaps from personnel turnover and attrition, and to validate plans through exercises and real-world incidents.

Forty-five percent of states and territories reported that Cyber Security capability was in the greatest danger of decline. At the state level, Michigan developed a cybersecurity awareness program that provided 12 computer-based training lessons focused on best practices in the workplace to over 50,000 employees.

Mitigation plans from more than 22,000 communities cover approximately 76 percent of the U.S. population, up from 71 percent in 2012. Over 50 percent of the population is either aware of the importance of personal preparedness or is taking actions to improve their preparedness.

Nearly 22,000 communities participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, representing about 5.6 million policies and $1.2 trillion in coverage. Although this program saves policyholders from an estimated $1.6 billion in losses annually, this FEMA-administered program faces fiscal challenges. Specific concerns include $24 billion in debt from previous catastrophic flooding events and the program’s rate structure, which allows approximately 20 percent of policyholders to pay rates subsidized by the Federal Government. Despite collecting about $3.5 billion in annual premiums, FEMA faces a $1.5 billion shortfall annually due to subsidized policies.

States have significantly improved Enhanced 9-1-1 capabilities, but existing 9-1-1 funding structures may be inadequate for facilitating the transition to Next Generation 9-1-1. Seventeen states also used the Enhanced 9-1-1 Grant Program to begin transitioning their 9-1-1 systems to an Internet Protocol-based Next Generation 9-1-1 infrastructure. States are also facing regulatory and technology challenges with implementing Next Generation 9-1-1.

A December 2013 FCC report noted that states and territories collected approximately $2.3 billion in 9-1-1 and Enhanced 9-1-1 fees in 2012. Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico used a portion of these funds to support Next Generation 9-1-1 programs, totaling approximately $97 million.

The FCC estimates that about 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls are placed from a wireless phone. As of March 2013, nearly 98 percent of 9-1-1 call centers are able to identify the cellular tower or the cellular site that is receiving a wireless call—an improvement from 80 percent in 2006. Similarly, 97 percent are able to provide more precise caller-location information for at least one wireless carrier, usually within 50 to 300 meters. This represents a 40 percent increase compared to 2006.
The 2013 State Preparedness Report results show that while only 48 percent of states and territories identified Fatality Management Services as a high priority, states and territories viewed the Federal Government as having a larger role in filling remaining preparedness gaps than any other core capability.

Save the Children released the 2013 National Report Card on Children in Disasters, which assesses every state (and the District of Columbia) against four standards that focus on whether plans are sufficient for evacuation, family reunification, children with special needs, and all hazards in schools and child-care facilities. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of states that met all four standards increased from four to twenty-two. However, of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 29 still did not meet these standards.

States and territories were concerned with sustaining the necessary trained personnel for the relatively mature capability for mass search and rescue. States and territories identified this capability among those in greatest danger of decline.
Two national surveys in 2013 confirmed that a majority of state emergency management agencies are using geospatial data and social media to improve situational awareness during a disaster response. In one survey, 90 percent reported having between one and five geospatial staff members available to support response operations, an improvement from 77 percent in 2005. However, more than half of states lack the capability to analyze imagery data and instead rely on Federal or other state or county agencies for support. Slightly more than half of the states cited insufficient staff expertise to conduct such analysis. Additionally, while 58 percent of states expressed interest in crowd sourced data and volunteered geographic information (i.e., geographic data that individuals provide voluntarily), only 18 percent currently use this information during disasters. States identified data reliability (78 percent) and data quality (66 percent) as the two primary reasons for the low use of crowd sourced data and volunteered geographic information.

States and territories continued to identify Situational Assessment as among the highest scoring capabilities. Seventy percent of states are concerned about training gaps resulting from attrition and turnover.
States and territories rated themselves lower in Recovery capabilities than any other mission area.

For the third year in a row, at least three of the five lowest-scoring capabilities focused on recovery. Similarly, states and territories cited significant training gaps in this mission area, including training personnel to be fully inclusive of disaster survivors with access and functional needs.

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