Federal Preparation and Social Mitigation Protection Programs

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The entire nation is considered vulnerable to natural and manmade/technological disasters. Natural disasters are considered a high threat throughout the entire calendar year and the more the population grows the larger the number at risk. The mid-Atlantic sector of the U.S. is at risk to geophysical disasters such as hurricanes and tropical storms while the Midwest states are prone to climatological threats like catastrophic wildfires during the scorching summer months. The west coast is prone to wildfires as well, however, is plagued by both minor and major earthquakes. Technological disasters can occur anywhere you have human settlements. A technological disaster is an event caused by a malfunction of a technological structure and/or some human error in controlling or handling the technology (Lindsey, Donovan, et al, 2018). Every manmade invention (factories, planes, trains and an automobiles) have the potential to fail and sometimes these failures can lead to catastrophic events which can lead to fatalities and billions of dollars in damages. The Holland Tunnel fire in Baltimore is an example of a technological disaster. This disaster involved a series of train cars catching fire underneath Baltimore and put the cities, 600,000 inhabitants, at risk.

The U.S. government, private sector and stakeholders all play a critical role in emergency management through preparation, protection, response and recovery. Every day steps are taken to ensure communities across the nation are prepared to handle emergencies and are capable of responding and returning back to their normal operations without delays and maintaining resiliency. This monumental process is assisted by the many Federal preparation and mitigation programs in place that assist and facilitate immediate aid and efficient responses so that people, resources, and structures can be saved. Federal preparation and mitigation aide programs have been traced back to the early 19th century. The Congressional Act of 1803 is considered to be the first piece of disaster legislation in U.S. history. This documentation offered financial assistance to a New England town consumed by an extensive fire (3).

The U.S. government has created numerous Federal Preparation and Mitigation Programs that were put in place to aid communities so that they are equipped with key resources prior to emergency events and also capable of reducing the impact from them as well. It is impossible to completely protect everyone and everything however it is possible to ensure that they are resilient so that the impact is reduced, and normal operations can resume as quickly as possible. Federal Preparation and mitigation programs can be traced back to the early 20th century. During the 1930’s the Bureau of Public Roads was given authority to provide funding to rebuild roadways following disasters (Emergency Management, n.d.). During World War II the Flood and Control act of 1944 was established and gave authority to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control and irrigation projects and aided tremendously in the flood recovery sector. These programs exist for the sole purpose of equipping the nation with the appropriate resources and to reduce the impact caused by disasters to communities. There are many different Federal and Mitigation Programs that help communities. Through grants and educational training cities can seek aide in preparing for disastrous events and also mitigate the risks.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was established by President Richard Nixon in 1979 and was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. FEMA is tasked to work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards (2). FEMA focuses in on hazard mitigation so that it can protect lives and prevent and/or decrease the damage to property caused by disastrous events. Federal, state, tribal, and local governments all play important roles in disaster response and recovery.

The key to preparation is training and FEMA offers training programs that assist in transforming unprepared communities into resilient communities. The G-318 Local Mitigation Planning Workshop provides communities with a four-hour block of instruction that gives the basics on keeping mitigation plans up to date (2). In some situations, communities find that they are not financially capable of implementing proper preparation and mitigation efforts due to minimal funding. FEMA offers financial assistance with these types of projects through the Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program (HMAP) and the Hazards Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). HMAP consists of three separate plans that provide immediate financial assistance for qualified mitigation preparation and development activities that reduce disaster losses and guard lives and property from forthcoming emergency events. HMGP allows FEMA to identify eligible states, federally recognized tribes, and territories and provide financial assistance through grants. Money received through these grants are utilized to reinforce risk reduction measures, increase resiliency levels and reduce the impact of upcoming disasters and provide a permanent solution to the threat.

Center of Disease and Control

The Center of Disease and Control (CDC) was established in Atlanta, Georgia on 1 July 1946. It started off with a budget of $10 million dollars and 400 employees and its first assignment was to fight malaria(5). Today it serves as the nation’s health protective agency and is charged with protecting the health and safety of the entire nation from domestic and foreign health concerns. The CDC is focused on defeating the diseases before they even reach the borders of the U.S. For example, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2013 put the world on edge as experts worked together to fight and contain the deadly virus. After the outbreak, the CDC jumped into action by assisting the domestic and international airport industry by providing its screening expertise. This implementation permitted airport screening personnel to identify contaminated individuals prior to their departure to international destinations. Stateside airport personnel work hand and hand with the CDC to also recognize three personnel exhibiting Ebola like symptoms at JFK and Hartsfield international airports during the 2013-2016 timeframe.

There is a plethora of preparation resources offered by the CDC to equip personnel with both preparatory and mitigation strategies that increase resiliency efforts during natural, biochemical, radiation, bioterrorism and manmade/technological disasters. The CDC website offers factsheets that promote personal, business, state/local, healthcare, nation and legal preparedness.

Personal and Business Preparedness includes shelter in place guidance to mitigate potential airborne contaminants and other threats presented by disasters that impact people and structures. State and Local Preparedness refers to collaboration efforts in response to public health issues Healthcare Preparedness incorporates water supply preparation in the event of a partial or full water supply interruption. Legal Preparedness involves providing guidance and comprehension of the existing regulations involved with controlling communicable diseases. The better people understand the rules in place the more prepared and capable they are to handle potential upcoming disasters. Education is also at the forefront of the CDC’s philosophy regarding preparation and mitigation programs. Funding by the CDC led to the establishment of 14 Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Centers (PERLC). PERLC’s supply specialized training and education opportunities for public health officials at the state, local, and tribal level.

The Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)

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ASPR focuses on protecting people from health security threats. It takes a leadership role in preparing the country’s medical and public health preparedness, response and recovery from both public health and natural disasters (6). ASPR emphasizes on building a regional disaster healthcare response system by working hand in hand with medical treatment facilities, health care networks and all levels of the government to maximize preparedness and mitigation efforts (6). Preparedness is maximized by uniting medical, federal and emergency medical service capabilities ultimately increasing the pool of resources available to all involved agencies which increase the efficiency of how disasters are handled. These integrated efforts allow medical experts and emergency management organizations to promote a clear flow of information and share additional expertise from their respective fields. ASPR also focuses on research and development so that it may develop countermeasures to combat future health security issues. There are a number of notable programs and resources that are offered by ASPR.

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)

BARDA conducts research and development of vaccines that protect the nation from Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear threats. It also contributes to both he preparation and mitigation phase of a emergency disaster responses by developing the vaccines that are used prior to the CBRN events which reduce the impact of CBRN materials on the population.

Strategic National Stockpile (SNS)

SNS is considered to be the nation’s largest supply of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out (7). Once requests are made for federal aid, the SNS jumps into action by distributing medicines to those communities impacted by disasters; the SNS has the functionality to support multiple disasters occurring in the same time frame (7).

National Disaster Medical System (NDMS)

At times disasters have occurred that have overwhelmed the local and state levels response capabilities and they are forced to ask for immediate assistance. The NDMS creates a life line so that communities get the help they need by providing those additional medical and response resources. Additionally, the NDMS offers assistance that reimburses both patients and providers involved in disaster events like tornadoes, and hurricanes.

The ASPR Critical Infrastructure Protection Program

Critical Infrastructure is vital to keep the country up and running and ASPR helps safeguard our nation’s healthcare and public health infrastructure through coordinated efforts, ensuring that key facilities mitigate risks associated with potential disasters and are available to provide services immediately following emergency events.

The Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA was established in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation (8). It offers many tools that are available to prepare both businesses and homeowners for natural disasters. There is a total of seven preparation checklists that offer guidance and safety tips to help mitigate risks associated with hurricanes, winter weather, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods and cyber security threats.

The SBA provides immediate financial assistance following disasters to businesses, and homeowners by providing low interest loans. Loan categories are broken down into two categories; physical injury and economical damage. Physical injury loans cover repair expenses incurred by damages caused by the disaster and economical damage refers to Operating expenses incurred by businesses following a disaster. The disaster assistance process can be accomplished in three quick steps. The first step is to check and verify that the SBA has declared a disaster for the area you reside in or own your business. Next, you are required to log into the website and submit your application and the final step is to log in and check for approval status.

Conclusion

Federal preparation and mitigation programs have been available to the American public for almost two centuries. Their purpose is to equip everyone with the proper guidance and resources to minimize the impact of natural and technological/manmade disasters. Doing so allows the country to protect both the people and the infrastructure as well as quickly restore normal operations. These programs are only good to those who are aware of their existence in the first place. It is important that the agencies continue to spread information and advertise more to the American public. Also, the American public should ensure that they are doing everything in their power to increase their preparation levels so that mitigate risks and boost resiliency levels.

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