Houston/Harris County is overdue for a realignment of outreach strategies that engage and include vulnerable or marginal populations. After fifteen years in
the modern era of a new national domestic safety approach and volumes of empirical data collected by public health, housing, safety, and education sectors, we have made limited progress in readiness and mitigation at the neighborhood level. The service gaps disconnect, and dysfunctional applications are overloaded in specific zip codes being continuously under-served, why? Government solutions can be maximized if better applied and applied equitably!
Regarding solution models promoted by Homeland Security and FEMA since 2003, the attainment of a significant reduction in service gaps should be more realized but are not. An accepted successful model in the private and government sectors is Continuity of Operations/Government, why not Continuity of Neighborhoods. By applying the same energy to Continuity of Neighborhoods along with the other models, we should progress significantly. The federal authorization that provides the robust standard of outreach to all citizens is anchored in, Presidential Directive 5 and 8. According to HSPD 8, section 22,
“Citizen Participation (22), The Secretary shall work with other appropriate Federal departments and agencies as well as State and local governments and the private sector to encourage active citizen participation and involvement in preparedness efforts. The Secretary shall periodically review and identify the best community practices for integrating private citizen capabilities into local preparedness efforts.”
In a speech given by undersecretary Tom Ridge, in 2003, he explained National Priority 4.8, Community Preparedness: Strengthen Planning and Citizens Capabilities, as a welcome augmentation to 1% of emergency personnel that existed during a catastrophic event. Local authorities (city and county) advance the narrative that Citizens Corp or Citizens Emergency Response Training (CERT) are central to their outreach efforts, as a compliance factor or check the box strategy to citizen’s engagement. However, in many cases, that strategy is ineffective toward our most vulnerable. There are at least three reports that strongly indicate, suggest, and point blank states, better execution of engaging citizens to augment governments shortage of personnel, may not be as reported. The General Accounting Office, GAO Report 10-193, Regional Target Capabilities List (TCL) Report 2006 page 25, and the 2016 Report still has gaps. Citizen’s Corps, press release and Fact Sheets also identifies gaps. The National Plan Review released June 16, 2006, defines service gaps and a State correspondence dated November 2008, reminding the local government that FY 2009, HSGP funds guidelines require up to 25%, collectively applied toward Strengthening planning training and exercise activity for citizen’s preparedness priority. A corrective action plan is part of processing efficiency. However, it appears that the local jurisdictions are comfortable in avoiding the vulnerable populations, based on the lack of long-term engagement activities as well as the audit reports.
Charity Productions and others have worked for decades to provide training by scholars, professionals, practitioners and community members with the intended outcome of forming long-term service exchange networks with connectors to municipal departments. Since 2003, the notion of augmenting government personnel shortages in times of catastrophic circumstances is a viable option. New philosophies can produce new results. The Independent Sector calculates volunteer hours valued at $24.14 an hour. Therefore, social, and community capital is wasted resources but has tremendous value and affords many new opportunities.
In closing, the Ready Campaign and Whole Community contain good operational benefits however the maximum utilization of those models are subordinate to the day to day strategy of the government. This duality state has contributed to a limited or unequal distribution of services. The Government Accounting Office Report (GAO 10-193) also recognized, reports from local jurisdictions were suspect and slanted. We have 27 zip codes that are repeatedly under-served with unmet needs before an event. This cycle of neglect compounds a seasonal set of catastrophic events. Our focus is to extract critical federally proven protocols along with other proven models as accepted practices and transfer those skills to citizens, that will be an augmentation of staff invested in the well-being of their communities.