Special EMForum.org Webinar Program — February 29, 2012

Engaging the Whole Community
in Emergency Management

David J. Kaufman
Director, Office of Policy and Program Analysis
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following is a summary transcript prepared from the recording. It is not intended to be a complete, verbatim transcript.
This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/WCI/120229WCIbrief.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/WCI/120229WCIwebinar.wmv
An audio podcast is available at http://www.emforum.org/WCI/120229WCIwebinar.mp3

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to EMForum.org for today’s special event, the second in a series on FEMA initiatives. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Moderator today and we are very glad you could join us.

For those of you who Tweet, please note the hashtag #emforum which you may use if you wish.

Before we begin with today’s topic, I would like to provide an update on our last program about the Strategic Foresight Initiative. Topic categories related to SFI are now available on the FEMA IdeaScale Collaboration Community Website at fema.ideascale.com where you can now provide your feedback.

Today’s program is focused on FEMA’s Whole Community Initiative. A new report, A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action, was recently published to synthesize the findings of a national dialogue that FEMA has been leading over the past year. We expect many of you are familiar at least in a general way with the concept, but today is an opportunity to learn more, ask questions and provide your feedback directly.

[Slide 1]

Now once again it is my pleasure to introduce today’s guest: David J. Kaufman has been the Director of FEMA's Office of Policy and Program Analysis since his appointment during September 2009. In this position he is responsible for providing leadership, analysis, coordination, and decision-making support to the FEMA Administrator on a wide range of Agency policies, plans, programs, and key initiatives.

Please see today’s Background Page for additional biographical details and links to the Whole Community Website and report.

Welcome David, and thank you very much for joining us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


David Kaufman: Thank you and good afternoon. I want to stress a couple of points: we view this as an evolving and continuing conversation that we are having collectively as a field of practice about how we approach doing our business—not so much about the technical functions we execute, but the mental frame we bring to how we execute those functions.

This is a conversation about philosophy, paradigm and ideology in an applied sense in the context of how we provide the best possible emergency management outcomes. I want to start with a recap of some of the top level findings out of our Foresight Initiative. I think it is important to think about the discussion around Whole Community in the context of the challenges we face today and tomorrow.

I want to move into the linkages back to the current policy emphasis on a national scale and some other initiatives you may be aware of. The last point I will make is that nothing in here is stuff a few of us came up with—it is a synthesis of already emerging and leading edge practice within the field at different levels. I will give you examples as we go through the conversation.

[Slide 2]

Let’s step back and revisit the broader picture for a moment. We have a companion initiative that is looking at the implications of a changing world for the practice of emergency management. Over the coming decades we are seeing increased empowerment of individuals who are technology-enabled, radical changes in the way information and knowledge move, the influence nodes and where people turn for information.

It is impossible to predict change in the security environment. There are dramatic demographic shifts worldwide and in the United States with greater diversity and other issues. There are changes in the manmade and natural environments and the state of U.S. infrastructure, and the investment required to support it. We already see shifts in the world’s climate. Also, events can cascade much more rapidly or broadly than in the past.

[Slide 3]

When we think about what that means to emergency management, this is what emerged as being important—coming to terms with increasing complexity and decreasing predictability, thinking differently about how we define and understand risk, grappling with challenges that are not just in the context of acute events, the means and methods for how emergency services are delivered in times of practice, and the critical importance of strengthening trust.

[Slide 4]

As we think more about the here and now and reflect on the National Framework policy, there is a tremendous emphasis on resilience. When you look at the language in recent documents we are seeing an emphasis on empowerment of individuals, families, communities, ideas of local leadership, inclusiveness and engagement. The language isn’t new but there are different nuances on how it is being used.

[Slide 5]

It is worth it to think about what disaster management is really about—it’s about helping people move through difficult times. There are some simple realities about how that works in the world. The first is the acknowledgement of the role the public plays on an everyday basis. More often than not the first people on the scene are neighbors helping neighbors.

This is important when you listen to Administrator Fugate talk—this is part of his foundation for thinking about survivors and the role they play in times of crisis. The second point is that communities that successfully recover drive their own recovery. It is not any one segment of the community but a melding of all segments.

The third point is the recognition is that the language we use is most often bureaucratic, but emergency management is inherently a social process. The last point is that we often think of the emergency cycle in terms of different missions and responsibilities we execute. The graphics we use depict those in a circular fashion around a disaster that occurs. The focus of that framing is almost entirely around the impacts of the disaster.

The disaster is just one variable in what produces those impacts. We are comfortable thinking about it that way in mitigation missions, but that is still only part of the picture. We are going to talk about how the social environment works in that same way to work with a disaster and are affected by a disaster.

This is about how issues of equality, health and access feed into the challenges we experience operationally in the context of response and recovery, and how a community’s fabric is altered by those experiences.

[Slide 6]

Over the past year and a half we have made an effort to launch a national conversation with respect to these issues. The product of that has been astonishing. Across the country an innovation is happening to deliver better outcomes for people in crises. Our exploration is inspired by work that has gone on in the past in other fields.

As we look at whole community as a framework for an approach for emergency management we see it is analogous to the rise of community oriented policing or the framing we use for public health. The emphasis is on society and setting conditions that allow people to be healthy and safe—not just government.

[Slide 7]

We have synthesized everything in a doctrinal piece that is accessible and easy to read. It is available on our website. Our effort has been to distill everything we have learned through these engagements and conversations we have had with everyone and reflect that back as knowledge we can all use. The end of the document helps to move us from understanding the concepts to steps we can take to apply those concepts.

[Slide 8]

Very briefly I want to walk through the core principles that have emerged from this exploration and give you some simple phrases and examples to use to put meaning behind those principles. What does it mean to say "Whole Community" in emergency management?

It boils down to understanding and meeting the actual needs of a community. Too often we find faulty assumptions in our planning processes about what people’s needs will be or the best ways to meet those needs. One of the traditional default ways is for thinking about how to feed people in crisis—shipping them MRE’s. MRE’s are easy and accessible but they are only a partial solution.

This approach is about understanding the full spectrum of a need and how the need was being met yesterday. The networks by which people are fed are different place to place and shifts. If you understand the full spectrum of need is what needs to be delivered and what comes along with that. The larger point is who is involved and how they can be involved in the solution.

That drives us to the third point which is understanding what is already working in a community. We begin to cast the broader net there and think about who is part of the team in a way that enables us to mobilize all available resources and capabilities.

[Slide 9]

With respect to the first principle—understand community DNA. Communities are very complex and each of us participates in many different communities in our lives. This is not a simple undertaking to understand how communities are organized and needs are being met. There are people who study this for a living so there is a partnership opportunity.

The second part is planning for what the real demand will actually be. It is logical to say that if I have ten units of capability, I wouldn’t write a plan for 15. When the problem exceeds the capability we have, we haven’t worked through who else to engage or how to cope in that context.

The third point is to recognize and understand the capabilities that already exist in our communities.

[Slide 10]

We have to bring in voices that weren’t originally part of the conversation and meet them where they really are. We have a tendency to put out information, but we do not always realize that we are putting out information in competition with everything else. That is a real challenge.

We need to let public participation lead and build trust through participation. Trust isn’t built in abstraction. Trust in government is always highest with those they interact with directly. The more opportunities for interaction, the more opportunities there are to build positive interactions and trust. There are numerous examples of cities that have learned to reach people through the institutions and connections that already exist.

[Slide 11]

The third principle we have identified is the importance of understanding where the points of strength are and how to further strengthen them. The first point is to think about who is at our planning tables and who is involved, and think about these being social decision processes. We need to create space at the table for the public to engage productively.

You see a lot of work in our agency trying to move in that direction. People are innovating ways to do this at all levels. We need to think about the social context the way we think about the physical context. We found through our dialogue that we need to think about social infrastructure—how it is organized, its strengths, and support and nurture it.

This can be emergent in the moment of crisis and sometimes we can set it up in advance. In Joplin the Citizen Recovery Team was formed because of the community’s priority to save its population. San Francisco is creating a neighborhood empowerment network which is connecting existing networks together.

[Slide 12]

This is an articulation of a value proposition—a community centric approach for emergency management that focuses on strengthening and adapting what works well in communities on a daily basis offers the best path to building societal security and resilience. It is about moving beyond what government delivers as solutions in a crisis to how we set conditions to enable all aspects of society to deliver those solutions.

[Slide 13]

New Zealand has a wonderful phrase as part of their doctrine—disaster resilience is inherently interdependent with resilience in other contexts. Strengthening our resilience in disasters is inherently a part of strengthening resilience in those other contexts.

We are seeking to advance this conversation and talk about and gather insights and ideas from across the community of practice. We are applying these concepts to how we operate as an organization. A part of Presidential Policy Directive 8 calls for a national campaign to build and sustain national preparedness. That is something we are taking very seriously.

[Slide 14]

Our general approach is looking for a way to link together a large number of related activities in a manner that becomes mutually reinforcing and moving us forward. The overriding emphasis of the past ten years has been breaking down silos and the next ten years will be about the same thing, but across sectors.

[Slide 15]

Here is the link to the Whole Community doctrine. I encourage you to read it. We are in the process of creating a discussion space around Whole Community in the context of how we achieve specific outcomes in catastrophic events. [See http://fema.ideascale.com/a/ideafactory.do?id=14692&mode=recent&discussionFilter=byids&discussionID=58329 ]

I look forward to questions and discussions.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much David. Now, to proceed to our discussion. We are ready to begin now, so please enter your comment or question at any time.


Charles D. Sharp, Black Emergency Managers Association: The whole community approach is a cornerstone of our association membership. In a system approach to whole community, we are an advocate of using re-entry program of ex-offenders and juveniles by having a mixture of FEMA EMI and hands-on CERT training so they can return to the community with skills that can be used by the community in a major incident or disaster, specifically in the recovery phase.

David Kaufman: That’s a great idea and something we should explore. That is a great example of where there is opportunity space.

Amy Sebring: Is the Whole Community approach and related activities for building it specifically incorporated into the 2012 Grant Guidance?

David Kaufman: Yes, it is. There is specific reference to advancing this. You also see this mirrored in the national strategies that were released earlier this year on empowering communities. That is also a guiding strategy for a lot of our prevention programs.

Bary Lusby: Why are the FEMA public-private partnership grants only available to States?

David Kaufman: If they are the grants I’m thinking about, which are the non-profit, they are largely around hardening or security measures at non-profit facilities that might be at risk for attack. When that program was created it asked for a prioritization and a process to help prioritize which ones were most at risk. Thus, those grants were run through the states.

I wouldn’t know if there are changes in some of those regards in 2012 with the way the grant programs are structured for this year, as well as other changes contemplated in FY13 to push us to look at how we build capacity as a nation.

Michael Loehr: How is FEMA working with other federal agencies, particularly HHS and CDC, to incorporate the whole community approach into state and local health and medical preparedness?

David Kaufman: That is a great question. I was remiss for not mentioning the National Health Strategy which equally emphasizes resilience in that document. That is one of the guiding documents to include other parts of HHS trying to advance work in the public health space.

These are very complementary and reinforcing of the concepts we are pushing. They echo one another nicely. We have coordinating mechanisms to align emphasis and guidance particularly in the context of our grants. On the ground you should see a resonance in what is being emphasized in public health and health security and the kinds of things on this side.

Gil Ongwenyi: Where can one find best practices in community engagement?

David Kaufman: We have been talking about this for awhile. We think there would be value in a repository of that being created. We are not certain how to do that so that it allows for active population of the examples and use. I welcome ideas and feedback on that, either to me, through the Think Tank, or the Whole Community discussion.

We have gathered a large number of those that are in the publication we sent out, but there are many more. It is a good idea to have a place where we can all see that where it is low burden to populate it and use it.

John Neldeberg: How does this initiative correlate with PPD-8?

David Kaufman: I would describe Whole Community as a core philosophy that is embedded in all the PPD-8 deliverables. The language is different but the meaning is the same. This is how we are putting into action that idea and direction.

When you review the deliverables, you see the emphasis on broad view, approach and inclusive focus on meeting of needs across the spectrum and engaging with mobilizing capacities that exist in and out of government woven throughout. This is at the heart of PPD-8, the National Preparedness Goal and the Whole Community.

Daniel Hahn: How does the Whole Community concept fit with the FEMA Pubic Private Partnership Initiative? Is there collaboration?

David Kaufman: Absolutely. I would characterize it as going gangbusters in creating ways for us to engage in non-traditional ways for the private sector. It is about applying the philosophy in the same way FEMA is engaging the private sector and how FEMA supports broader engagement at large.

That is everything from creating space within our emergency operation center for private sector representation to the conference we held last year exploring the entire range of public/private issues. It is putting into action this concept in earnest.

Charles D. Sharp: I'd like to commend DHS and FEMA for the use of addressing the psychological trauma communities encountered by ensuring that psychological first-aid was available in all the East Coast communities affected by the flooding. This took into consideration the HHS, and public-health aspect of the community.

Avagene Moore: David, thanks for bringing this information to us today. Are there plans to promote and publicize creative and successful Whole Community actions as they are implemented? Are you asking for notice of such actions across the country?

David Kaufman: I would love that notice and would love to create that kind of demand in the discussion. We have a program we are not ready to launch but I will preview it—it is a partnership arrangement of an Innovative Challenge Award. It would seek to create competition to recognize and provide small scale financial support for community based activities.

We haven’t finalized the particulars. It may be four or five months before we are ready to talk about that. We are looking for ways to incentivize, catalyze and support leading edge practices. I would love to see examples and stories. Send them to me, the Think Tank, or our email.

Emily Meyer, Florida Post-Disaster Redevelopment Planning Initiative: We were bouncing around ideas for how to encourage neighbor to neighbor efforts to redevelop entire communities (block by block). Are there existing examples of really pro-active marketing campaigns or programs that have connected survivors with a feeling of responsibility for long-term recovery outcomes?

David Kaufman: I’m not sure. Some of the engagement work that was going on in Joplin seems to really get to that. I’m sure that is not the only example. We have been having a lot of discussions about neighbor-to-neighbor.

We are finding a lot of preparedness messaging has been successful in creating awareness but less successful in motivating behavioral action. I would love to know what you guys are bouncing around because we are thinking about that in a larger context in a campaign for national preparedness.


Amy Sebring: Time to wrap for today. Again, here is the Whole Community Website URL for further information. http://www.fema.gov/about/wholecommunity.shtm

David, on behalf of Avagene and myself and all our participants, thank you very much for taking time to share this information with us today. And thanks also to your staff for assisting with the preparation for today’s program.

For EMForum.org newcomers, please note we have regular Webinar programs on a wide range of emergency management related topics twice a month, normally on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at noon Eastern.

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Thanks to everyone for participating today. Have a great afternoon. We are adjourned.