Whole Community Assessment & Its Impact on Emergency Preparedness

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s strategy of whole community preparedness has been in the emergency management lexicon for a couple of years. Insufficient planning around community members with certain access and functional needs – medical dependencies, mobility limitations, age, lack of access to transportation, and owners of pets, as just a few examples – was clearly identified as a weakness in the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since then, incremental steps have been taken to better prepare for the large numbers of individuals who require additional assistance (as high as 45% or 50% in some communities). However, Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 demonstrated that significant gaps still exist in the ability to identify, prepare for, rapidly locate, and respond to those who require such assistance. Over half of Sandy’s victims in the U.S. were age 65 or older, most of whom drowned in or near their residences.

This paper examines a novel approach to collecting and maintaining citizen-provided information, and the many ways in which that critical data can be leveraged to impact emergency preparedness and disaster response to improve outcomes.