Op-ed: FEMA showed in 2017 that we are all first responders

Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department

In this Dec. 12, 2017, file photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, fire burns canyons and ridges above Bella Vista Drive near Romero Canyon as the fight to contain a wildfire continues in Montecito, Calif.

The year 2017 brought high winds, fire and floods to our nation in the form of devastating wildfire and hurricane seasons. These events impacted millions of individuals and families across the country and devastated countless communities. The response to these events challenged the nation’s emergency management capabilities, and recovery efforts will go on for years to come.

FEMA has a central role in both response and recovery efforts as the federal government’s coordinator of emergency management operations. But that role is often misunderstood, with FEMA being viewed as a first responder rather than an extension of state and local capabilities. In reality, when an event occurs, response is led by local leaders and officials, who have the greatest understanding of impacts to a community and have vital local knowledge needed to respond immediately. When local resources are insufficient, the state and ultimately the federal government can be called upon to fill needs and provide financial and technical support.

The disasters of 2017 demonstrated that this country must continue to build up its emergency management capacity at all levels. FEMA continues to hire outstanding individuals who strongly believe in the mission of supporting our communities after a disaster. But that alone is not enough. We must continue to work with our state, local and tribal partners to build capabilities, and we must be able to work with each other, whether it be a flood in South Dakota, a wildfire in Montana or a tornado in Colorado.

Even more important may be instilling a culture of preparedness and resiliency within our population. To that end, I believe here in the West we already have a great deal of that in our makeup. In communities across the Plains and Rockies, we understand the importance of helping neighbors and relying on ourselves. Our close-knit communities are one of our greatest advantages when it comes to dealing with…

Read the full article from the Source…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *