Doug Bedell — July 20, 2007, 8:44 am

Florida Gets Together on Emergency Planning

Florida’s emergency management system is ranked as the nation’s best, largely because its officials have adopted a regional approach to emergency planning. An article in the current issue of the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management reports on Florida’s approach to emergency readiness.

The article, “Designing Homeland Security Policy within a Regional Structure: A Needs Assessment of Local Security Concerns,” is based on a survey methodology that could be useful in other parts of the nation in assessing emergency readiness. The message from its authors, Kiki Caruson and Susan A. MacManus, of the University of South Florida, is that “A regional approach does not guarantee preparedness, but it does offer a powerful method for enhancing intergovernmental coordination.”

This reality may be less obvious in parts of the U.S. that don’t have to contend annually with hurricane winds. Storm preparedness was one of the key factors that set Florida on the road to sharing and maximizing available emergency resources. Florida also has the eighth densest population pattern in the nation. Its Regional Domestic Security Task Force is organized into seven regional emergency management organizations.

Taking an enlightened regional approach to emergency preparedness doesn’t automatically solve all problems. But it puts them on a clearer track to solution. In Florida, this study’s author’s report, “three areas dominate the top needs identified by local officials and first responders: funds for overtime pay, funds and personnel for additional hiring, and access to interoperable communication equipment. Specialized training and technology emerge as important needs for the East Central, Southwest, and Southeast regions.”

Needs like these exist in many other parts of the nation. Yet getting a wider, regional array of officials together to work on them is a plus. “As new partnerships are forged among small and large, rural and urban, and coastal and interior localities, officials are likely to report that their intergovernmental networks have improved.”

So it can be elsewhere.

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