The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

National Preparedness Month Blog: Engaging the Public in Critical Disaster Planning and Decision Making

The National Academies Press has released a new report, "Engaging the Public in Critical Disaster Planning and Decision Making," that provides a summary of the workshop held by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) at the March 2013 NACCHO (National Association of County and City Health Officials) Public Health Preparedness Summit. The IOM workshop focused on the importance of public engagement in disaster planning processes and aimed to provide practitioners with key principles of public engagement, guidance on how to implement a public engagement activity, sample tools to facilitate planning, and different methods of engagement exercises. The workshop achieved this by engaging panelists and attendees in interactive exercises to demonstrate both the process of public engagement and the adaptation of tools for working in their own communities. The workshop maintained that these skills are extremely useful in "obtaining public input about pending policy decisions that require difficult choices among competing values" and in "[revealing] public misunderstandings, biases, and areas of deep disagreement" surrounding policy decisions.

The report released by the National Academies Press aims to summarize the proceedings of the workshop. It frames the concept of public engagement, especially during the outreach and planning stages, provides descriptions of specific topics and case studies presented by workshop panelists, discusses challenges and lessons learned, and gives a detailed description of the simulated public engagement exercises. The contents of the report are intended for all stakeholders involved in developing disaster management plans, including responses to those plans and disseminations methods. Though the workshop itself involved only a few members of the emergency management community, a review of the proceedings will help stakeholders nationwide to establish and/or ameliorate local public engagement processes.