Emergencies are unpredictable, stressful, and unique. The successful management of a large-scale disaster begins well before the event itself, through contingency planning, skilled preparation, and practice. Developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Preparedness Community (NPC) is an initiative created to help service providers, businesses, and general public “connect, collaborate, and empower” themselves through disaster readiness. The program, which promotes cooperation and information sharing, boasts more than 43,000 members, including more than 2,400 emergency responders and 1,900 nonprofit organizations. The NPC features three primary goals, all geared toward laying the groundwork for community response (1):
1) Learn from each other and share resources
2) Connect with each other and Emergency Management personnel
3) Coordinate, participate in, and engage others in preparedness activities
Registration in the National Preparedness Community is free, quick, and open to all members of the public. First responders joining the NPC have the opportunity to network with colleagues from around the nation, share personal experiences, tips, and challenges, and reach out to the general public to facilitate local preparation and awareness.
Along with ongoing community development, the NPC hosts America’s PrepareAthon! program, designed to build on the outreach foundation provided in the joint DHS and FEMA Ready campaign. The PrepareAthon! offers national days of action in April and September, with a spring focus on tornado, flood, wildfire, and hurricane awareness, and fall materials on earthquakes, hazardous materials, pandemic flu, and severe winter weather. Along with single-day events; year-round forums, calendars, and reference guides are available. Each call to action is provided with the intent of helping the public (2):
• Understand which disasters could happen in their community
• Know what to do to be safe and mitigate damage
• Take action to increase their preparedness
• Participate in community resilience planning
These goals are accomplished through “hazard-specific drills, group discussions, and exercises3” based on the Great ShakeOut program for earthquake preparedness. Each hazard is addressed with step-by-step guides in implementing drills, preparing documents, and understanding warnings, divided into sections for schools, the workplace, community groups, and local government for easy reference (for example, Hurricanes). A comprehensive, easy to use guide on preparation is also provided (for example, Wildfires), adding to the goal to increase national resilience during disaster situations.
Connect with Your Community
To provide for the different needs and interests of participating community members, the NPC provides a “Connect with Peers” feature for networking, receiving updates, and sharing resources. Participants can subscribe to tweets and emails from the Community of Practice of their choice, in areas such as First Responders, Pet Preparedness, and the Private Sector. Each section features a discussion forum that includes user-submitted links, regional trainings, and commentary, as well as the latest news on nationwide programs.
Free Mobile Apps
In the event of a disaster, a mobile phone may serve as a single source for safety updates, community alerts, and communication with loved ones. These vital features are further enhanced by a range of free apps created to promote safety and resource awareness in emergency situations. The NCP page includes both apps designed by federal agencies, such as the FEMA app with shelter and emergency meeting information, and third-party programs like Flashlight-4, and Tiny Flashlight, which modify a phone’s LED light for continuous illumination.
Find Your Local Preparedness Events
The NPC recognizes that disaster preparation is a dynamic, ongoing challenge that requires participants to learn, apply, and practice new skills and planning. National, local, and online events that provide training and assistance take place daily, and the NCP site provides a sizable collection of these resources through the calendar feature. This includes functions such as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trainings, CPR classes, community orientation trainings, and unique local events developed to meet community needs. Events are also available by zip code and on a map to promote ease of navigation, and users can add their own events to the national roster.
Every first responder department has a unique perspective, background, and understanding of its local needs in disaster preparation. Consider sharing this knowledge with the national community of volunteers, full time agencies, and supporting organizations dedicated to emergency response by joining the National Preparedness Community today. This free resource will help you grow your department’s opportunities and outreach, while providing new techniques and ideas to enhance your community’s readiness and response.