9/11 10 Years Later: Emergency Preparedness

Commemorating 9/11
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Shortly after the turn of the millennium two tragic events, one caused by man, the other by nature, would be catalysts for significant changes within the emergency management community. The first event was the terrorist attack that took place in New York City on September 11th 2001; the second was hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in Louisiana on August 29 of 2005. Many of the resulting changes are defined within three important documents; the National Incident Management System (NIMS), National Preparedness Guidelines (NPG), and National Response Framework (NRF).

The creation of NIMS was among the first of major changes to occur within the emergency management community post 9/11, and was mandated by Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-5, signed by President Bush on February 28, 2003. In March of 2004, approximately 1 year after HSPD-5 was issued, NIMS was established. The underlying goal of NIMS is to provide “… a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity.” It is important to note that NIMS is not an emergency response plan; rather, it provides the framework for effective incident management with focus on establishing effective coordination among the various potential responders. NIMS also resulted in the establishment of the National Integration Center (NIC). The NIC is charged with ensuring that NIMS continually incorporates best practices and that Federal departments and agencies, as well as state, tribal and local governments, NGOs and other stakeholders in the private sector, remain informed on relevant advancements within the emergency management community.

HSPD-8, signed December 17, 2003, marked another significant development within the emergency management community. HSPD-8 directed Homeland Security to establish a national preparedness goal. The interim document was aptly titled: “Interim National Preparedness Goal,” and was published in March 2005. This interim document would be superseded by the National Preparedness Guidelines (NPG)
in September, 2007.

The purpose of the NPG can be broken down into 5 fundamental areas: (1) Synchronize Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial emergency management communities; (2) guide investments in national preparedness; (3) ensure that lessons learned from previous disasters are utilized so that continuous improvements are made within the emergency management communities ; (4) coordinate a “capability based and risk based planning process”; (5) create a means to assess the Nation’s overall preparedness in responding to significant emergencies, with a particular focus on how prepared the Nation is in dealing with terrorist attacks.

In addition to the creation of NIMS, HSPD-5 mandated the creation of a National Response Plan. The NRP was meant to replace the outdated Federal Response Plan, which had provided the guidelines to the Federal government’s response to emergency situations since 1992. The initial NRP draft was released in February 2004 and formally released in December 2004. Despite the fact that the NRP would be further refined to incorporate lessons learned from Katrina, it was eventually criticized as being “internally repetitive” and lacking sufficient focus at the national level. Therefore, the NRP underwent a major revision and evolved into what is now known as the National Response Framework (NRF). The NRF, can be succinctly described as “… a guide to how the Nation conducts all-hazards response. It is built upon scalable, flexible, and adaptable coordinating structures to align key roles and responsibilities across the Nation. It describes specific authorities and best practices for managing incidents that range from the serious but purely local, to large-scale terrorist attacks or catastrophic natural disasters.”

The events of 9/11 made evident the need to integrate the citizen community into how the nation responded to emergencies. Not only are average citizens the first line of defense, they are often also first on scene. Thus, on January 2002 President Bush created the Citizen Corps. The Citizen Corps developed a program known as the Community Emergency Response Team, or “CERT.” CERT “provides a structured opportunity for citizens to augment local emergency response activities. Using CERT materials and guidance, local communities train teams of neighborhood volunteers and employees in the workplace in emergency preparedness and response skills.” CERT has a dedicated website, and publishes a monthly newsletter relevant to the CERT community.

The aforementioned documents were, among other things, meant to address the vast interoperability shortcomings between governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector of previous years. Nevertheless, there can be some confusion on how NIMS, NRP and NPG differ. A simple way to understand the difference is to understand that “[t]ogether, the NRP, NIMS, and the Goal define what needs to be done to manage a major event, how it needs to be done, and how well it needs to be done. [Fundamentally], The NRP, NIMS, and the Goal align the patchwork of Federal, State, local, tribal, private sector, and nongovernmental incident management efforts into an effective and efficient national structure.” Moreover, each of these documents emphasizes the importance of integrating the community into how the Nation responds to, and prevents emergencies. The necessity of national preparedness has recently been reaffirmed by the issuance of Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8). Similarly, the principles of community involvement have recently been reinforced with the Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign.

Undeniably, the sweeping changes that have taken place within the emergency management community over the last decade have significantly increased flexibility, adaptability and interoperability among Federal, state, tribal and local government emergency management communities.

Additional blog posts in the HSDL “9/11 10 Years Later” series can be found here

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/s_4276

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