U.S. Government Affairs

  • 1.  Stakeholder Engagement Findings for FEMA's Road to Resilience

    Posted 05-26-2023 12:29
      |   view attached

    Hello IAEM Members:

    For the last year or so, FEMA has been undertaking an effort to look at how it provides services within it's "Resilience" organization (primarily mitigation and preparedness activities). During this process it has engaged with IAEM and other professional associations numerous times. FEMA has recently released a report highlighting the results of this outreach with the email below and report attached.

    This work is not the same, but is closely aligned with an initiative the National Security Council and FEMA are undertaking to develop National Resilience Guidance. More information on this initiative and info about future listening sessions can be found here: https://www.fema.gov/emergency-managers/national-preparedness/plan/resilience-guidance

    This initiative has the potential to create some of the most significant changes to how FEMA operates and how mitigation and preparedness services. Furthermore, if history tells us anything, these changes could create changes to the way state EMAs provide services, in an effort to align themselves to FEMA's new model. One concern has been the potential of implementing yet another construct without cleaning up the old systems as described on page 6 of RAND Corporation's 2022 report: Streamlining Emergency Management:

    "Constructs are regularly added without others being retired. Several interviewees referred to the phenomenon as an "adding machine." This can occur because of the changing vision of a new administration or as a response to a specific incident or new and emerging issues. Although adding a new construct is not inherently bad, adding constructs without considering how they fit with existing constructs creates integration problems."


    It's important for our association to stay ahead of FEMA's proposed shift to a resilience-focused delivery model, and for our members to maintain vigilance on how this might impact their programs. Interested in hearing the thoughts of members on this initiative and hear their feedback on the listening sessions.


    Dear Colleagues,

    I am pleased to share with you the Stakeholder Engagement Findings for Road to Resilience, a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to enhance FEMA Resilience and better serve our communities.

    In early 2022, Administrator Criswell initiated an internal assessment of the Resilience organization, aiming to identify areas for improved customer service and expedited resilience building across all communities. The assessment uncovered valuable opportunities to enhance our organizational effectiveness and ensure that FEMA builds the resilient organization that our nation needs and deserves.

    From December 2022 to April 2023, FEMA Resilience engaged in comprehensive internal and external sessions to gather stakeholder feedback, validate the findings from the internal review, and further strengthen our ability to fulfill our mission. Throughout this period, we conducted numerous in-depth engagements, involving close to 800 FEMA Resilience staff and stakeholders at the regional, state, and local levels. These engagements provided us with invaluable insights into your priorities and aspirations for FEMA Resilience.

    The attached Stakeholder Engagement Findings for Road to Resilience has been compiled to capture and present a comprehensive picture of the key feedback we received during these engagements. This document encompasses the major themes identified and outlines recommended actions for our collective journey towards building a more resilient future and will serve as an essential component of our future structure.

    I encourage you to take the time to review the report, as your insights and perspectives have played a crucial role in shaping its content. By working together and leveraging the expertise of stakeholders like you, we can ensure that FEMA Resilience remains steadfast in its commitment to serving communities, enhancing customer service, and bolstering our nation's resilience.

    We deeply appreciate your continued support and engagement in this critical endeavor. Your feedback and contributions are invaluable as we collectively strive to build more resilient communities across the nation.

    Thank you for your ongoing commitment to our shared resilience goals.


    Victoria Inéz Salinas | Resilience

  • 2.  RE: Stakeholder Engagement Findings for FEMA's Road to Resilience

    Posted 05-26-2023 17:12

    Justin, I concur with you that this is a significant and strategic sea change for emergency management.

    Due to our close relationship with FEMA, EM's may be missing a view of the "larger landscape"--nearly every federal agency and department is now in the resilience business, with numerous federal grant programs mentioning "resilience," in addition to those that are directly tied to resilience objectives.

    If we rest on our laurels and continue with business as usual, we--as a profession and a discipline--run the risk of being overshadowed and left behind in the broader resilience dialogues that are ongoing at this time.

    The key task before us is to recognize and account for a few important things:

    1. Emergency management as a concept has been more or less unchanged over the last ~45 years. Since the NGA issued the Final Report from the Emergency Preparedness Project and the accompanying Governors' Guide to Emergency Management in 1978/79, the "four phases" model of prepare, mitigate, respond, and recover has dominated the landscape. There have been all kinds of "bolt on" additions to those four core themes, but overall the landscape is unchanged.

    2. Resilience has emerged as a unifying theme, driven by (among other drivers) a focus on DEI issues, cultural competency and sensitivity, social vulnerability, and climate change/climate adaptation. The emergence of resilience as an overarching theme has broadened the interest in proactive disaster management beyond the traditional domain of old-school emergency management. Resilience is a concept with a much broader and more human-oriented lens, affording the opportunity for a much wider range of stakeholders to now be able to participate in dialogue around disaster management topics. This means that subject matter experts and knowledge from disciplines as diverse as public health, diversity and inclusion, climate systems modeling, structural engineering, etc., all now have a unifying "umbrella" concept (under the banner of resilience) that we lacked before the last decade or so. In short, this means that emergency managers need to realize that the set of stakeholders and partners we should be coordinating with has expanded considerably beyond the more traditional public safety and built environment communities we have focused on previously.

    3. Speaking from a local EM perspective, I would argue that the advent of resilience as a concept is not destabilizing. In fact, it is exerting a unifying effect. For jurisdictions with proactive EM programs, accomodating the broader set of stakeholders (such as community action groups, developers and planners interested in climate change, etc.) is another opportunity for local EM's to apply "soft skills," build relationships, and deepen the connections between their programs and their communities. But, on the other hand, for programs that are more traditional (read: more hierarchical, more like old-school Civil Defense, and more oriented toward a closed-off "public safety agencies only" mentality), resilience is likely to be seen as a dilution of a mission set (if you see EM through the lens of a mission set) that is already hard to define. For those programs, resilience seems like a distraction away from what some perceive to be the core mission of EM, which -- in that case -- would be stakeholder and partner readiness for disaster response and recovery operations (as opposed to community-wide mitigation and preparedness initiatives).

    On the national stage, a lot of conversations are happening around resilience. FEMA is trying to figure out, as an agency, where things need to go, and what the long-term mission and role of FEMA will be  in coordinating resilience initiatives that are already ongoing and well-funded across the interagency environment.

    As emergency managers, we need to be very proactive in enhancing our participation in resilience dialogues at all levels -- especially on the national stage. 

    My overarching concern is that solutions are being developed without the participation of EM practitioners that will ultimately impact the communities EM's serve.

    As Justin so appropriately pointed out, I think we need to be preparing for some big changes on the national level, and we need to figure out what emergency management is going to look like over the long term.

    For my part, I think we are looking at a change to what I am calling "Comprehensive Emergency Management 2.0," which recognizes the relationship between resilience and readiness in a way that is not accounted for in the current four phases model.

    In my view, CEM 2.0 includes:

    1. Program viability - managing EM programs that are capable and credible, public administration functions, grants management, maintenance of facilities and technology, and staying politically and socially relevant.

    2. Readiness -- Outcomes like plans, exercises, training, and everything else that falls under the "emergency planning" umbrella, including COOP, COG, EOP's, threat assessment, deliberate operational planning, etc.

    3. Resilience -- Outcomes that are focused outwardly toward the community, which rely on a two-way dialogue to understand, appreciate, and enhance the resilience of specific elements of our nationwide social and infrastructure fabrics -- in a way that is participatory, and which cannot simply be mandated or centrally-planned and executed.

    4. Operations -- Outcomes related to what we have traditionally called "response and recovery," which -- as we all know -- are not different things, conceptually.

    I am not proposing that we discard the four phases approach entirely, but we do need to map it onto a new framework.

    Take a look at the attached graphic for an example of the model I have proposed.

    I am currently working on a manuscript for publication on this topic, and hope to have it out very soon.

    Jonathan W. Gaddy