Given the poor response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 there is a clear need to improve disaster planning in the US. To start to do this, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) organized 5 states to better develop their emergency plans over 18 months with $350,000 of funding for each state. This initiative was called the Task Force for Emergency Readiness (TFER). The reason for doing this was that even though any disaster would be unique, more generic disaster planning could identify key relationships and resources that would be needed at a time of crisis and improve coordination and responsiveness. This effort was intended as a pilot to before potentially scaling the program to all states. Ultimately the deadline was extended by 6 months to give participants more time, but it generally did result in improved plans for dealing with disaster.
Below is the timeline for the initiative (source GAO)
What Went Well
- The act of planning is in itself a useful exercise, and each state now has somewhat better plans in place.
- Some new relationships were formed to improve coordination in the event of crises. For example, Hawaii was creative in engaging Wal-Mart and Target in the planning process.
What Could Be Improved
- The pilot was loosely structured, and though the goals were clear, there was no prescribed methodology and therefore, some states were more successful in making progress than others
- Not all relationships improved due to the process. For example, coordination with the Department of Defense would be necessary for most large scale crises. Yet no state had deep engagement with the DoD.