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6 Vital Catastrophic Planning Considerations

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Author: Michael Icardi, Associate Manager, Preparedness Programs, IEM

Hurrican KatrinaMaintaining a high degree of preparedness for conducting emergency management operations has gone through many iterations of planning paradigms in the recent past. New incidents, both domestic and international, have called attention to the policies, protocols, and procedures that shape response and recovery activities. These incidents highlight the need for catastrophic planning, that is, planning for a disaster that immediately overwhelms the personnel and resources of a jurisdiction; it is a scenario considering the maximum of maximum impacts.

In the past eight years, IEM has served as one of the lead companies supporting catastrophic planning in Louisiana for a major hurricane; Florida and FEMA Region IV for a major hurricane and subsequent breach of the Herbert Hoover Dike along Lake Okeechobee leading to long-term flooding; and the Midwest and South for a major earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone.  Through these efforts, we have identified six concepts that all planners should address during their planning process for a catastrophic incident.

1. Requires fundamental shift in traditional methods

It is easy to become complacent with the status quo for preparedness activities, especially when your jurisdiction has not gone through a significant incident.  As such, the traditional way you provide food and water, sheltering, or evacuation has not been overwhelmed by catastrophic impacts. Planners commonly assume that they can implement operations in the same way they have always done it; they will just scale it up. In Southern California, the Catastrophic Earthquake Response Plan project identified the need to shelter 500,000 survivors in the Los Angeles Operational Area. Using the traditional model, a shelter will hold 300-500 people. Thus, at least 1,000 shelters, personnel and logistical support would be required to shelter 500,000 survivors. The traditional method must be reconsidered. (more…)