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Government Report: US Still Unprepared for Major Emergency

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says many states and cities are still unprepared to deal with a major man-made or weather-related emergency or catastrophe.

The agency released a lengthy (174-page) "Nationwide Plan Review" Friday that evaluated the emergency response plans of all 50 states, 75 cities and six U.S. territories. President Bush ordered the review last September in the aftermath of the government's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, which wrecked much of the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The report highlighted several common weaknesses among state and local emergency plans. They include the lack of a clear chain of command and a means of caring for special needs citizens such as the poor, elderly or disabled.

Terrorist targets Washington and New York were rated only "partially sufficient," while the state of Louisiana was rated "insufficient" several months after hurricanes devastated its coastal region.

The report says only 10 states have emergency plans that are fully acceptable - Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.



Link to the Complete Plan Review
  • Fact Sheet: Nationwide Plan Review Initial Conclusions
  • Initial Conclusions for States and Urban Areas:
  • The majority of the Nation’s current emergency operations plans and planning processes cannot be characterized as fully sufficient to manage catastrophic events as defined in the National Response Plan (NRP).
  • States and urban areas are not conducting adequate collaborative planning as a part of “steady state” preparedness.
  • Assumptions in Basic Plans do not adequately address catastrophic events.
  • Basic Plans do not adequately address continuity of operations and continuity of government.
  • The most common deficiency among State and urban area Direction and Control Annexes is the absence of a clearly defined command structure.
  • Many States and urban areas need to improve systems and procedures for communications among all operational components.
  • All Functional Annexes did not adequately address special needs populations.
  • States should designate a specific State agency that is responsible for providing oversight and ensuring accountability for including people with disabilities in the shelter operations process.
  • Timely warnings requiring emergency actions are not adequately disseminated to custodial institutions, appropriate government officials, and the public.
  • The ability to give the public accurate, timely, and useful information and instructions through the emergency period should be strengthened.
  • Significant weaknesses in evacuation planning are an area of profound concern.
  • Capabilities to manage reception and care for large numbers of evacuees are inadequate.
  • Capabilities to track patients under emergency or disaster conditions and license of out-of-State medical personnel are limited.
  • Resource management is the “Achilles heel” of emergency planning.  Resource Management Annexes do not adequately describe in detail the means, organization, and process by which States and urban areas will find, obtain, allocate, track, and distribute resources to meet operational needs.
  • To strengthen catastrophic planning capabilities, States and urban areas should clearly define resource requirements, conduct resource inventories, match available resources to requirements, and identify and resolve shortfalls.
  • Initial Conclusions for the Federal Government:
  • Planning products, processes, tools, and technologies should be developed to facilitate a common nationwide approach to catastrophic planning in accordance with the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Planning modernization should be fully integrated with other key homeland security initiatives.
  • Clear guidance should be developed on how State and local governments plan for coordinated operations with Federal partners under the National Response Plan.
  • Existing Federal technical assistance should be used to help States and urban areas address the specific issues identified during the Nationwide Plan Review.
  • Critical tasks, target capabilities, and associated performance measures, such as those identified in the National Preparedness Goal should serve as the common reference system for planning and the language of synchronization.
  • Detailed planning assumptions and planning magnitudes for catastrophic incidents should be defined, such as has been initiated through the National Planning Scenarios.
  • Current preparedness data should be readily accessible to planners.
  • Regional planning capabilities, processes, and resources should be strengthened in accordance with the National Preparedness Goals National Priorities to Expand Regional Collaboration and Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Collaboration between government and non-governmental entities should be strengthened at all levels, as outlined in the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priority to Expand Regional Collaboration.
  • The Federal Government should develop a consistent definition of the term “special needs.”  
  • The Federal Government should provide guidance to States and local governments on incorporation of disability-related demographic analysis into emergency planning.  
  • Federal, State, and local governments should work with the private sector to identify and coordinate effective means of transporting individuals with disabilities before, during, and after an emergency.  
  • Improvements in public preparedness and emergency public information should be implemented in accordance with the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Federal, State, and local governments should take action to better integrate non-governmental resources to meet surge capacity.
  • The Federal Government should provide the leadership, doctrine, policies, guidance, standards, and resources necessary to build a shared national homeland security planning system.
  • Identification of desired technologies, tools, and architecture(s) for the national homeland security planning community should be included in the National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Comprehensive national guidance on the potential consequences associated with catastrophic risks and hazards should be developed to drive risk management and operational planning.
  • Development of focused training, education, and professional development programs for homeland security planners should be included in the National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Collaborative planning and planning excellence should be incentivized.  Funding and projects should be linked to operational readiness through a specific task or capability in a plan or plan annex.
  • Federal, State, and local governments should increase the participation of people with disabilities and disability subject-matter experts in the development and execution of plans, training, and exercises.  
  • The Federal Government should provide technical assistance to clarify the extent to which emergency communications, including public information associated with emergencies, must be in accessible formats for persons with disabilities.  This assistance should address all aspects of communication, including, for example, televised and other types of emergency notification and instructions, shelter announcements, and applications and forms for government and private disaster benefits.
  • The status of the Nation’s plans should be a central focus of the annual report to the President on the Nation’s preparedness required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 (HSPD-8).
  • Emergency Operations Plans should be a focal point for resource allocation, accountability, and assessments of operational readiness.
  • Performance management frameworks to support the National Preparedness Goal should measure the ability to:

    -- Integrate a multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency response based on the intersection of tasks and capabilities in combined plans; and
    -- Maintain operations in the face of disruptions of service, damage to the environment in which operations occur, or loss of critical resources.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says many states and cities are still unprepared to deal with a major man-made or weather-related emergency or catastrophe.

The agency released a lengthy (174-page) "Nationwide Plan Review" Friday that evaluated the emergency response plans of all 50 states, 75 cities and six U.S.


territories. President Bush ordered the review last September in the aftermath of the government's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, which wrecked much of the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The report highlighted several common weaknesses among state and local emergency plans. They include the lack of a clear chain of command and a means of caring for special needs citizens such as the poor, elderly or disabled.

Terrorist targets Washington and New York were rated only "partially sufficient," while the state of Louisiana was rated "insufficient" several months after hurricanes devastated its coastal region.

The report says only 10 states have emergency plans that are fully acceptable - Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.



Link to the Complete Plan Review
  • Fact Sheet: Nationwide Plan Review Initial Conclusions
  • Initial Conclusions for States and Urban Areas:
  • The majority of the Nation’s current emergency operations plans and planning processes cannot be characterized as fully sufficient to manage catastrophic events as defined in the National Response Plan (NRP).
  • States and urban areas are not conducting adequate collaborative planning as a part of “steady state” preparedness.
  • Assumptions in Basic Plans do not adequately address catastrophic events.
  • Basic Plans do not adequately address continuity of operations and continuity of government.
  • The most common deficiency among State and urban area Direction and Control Annexes is the absence of a clearly defined command structure.
  • Many States and urban areas need to improve systems and procedures for communications among all operational components.
  • All Functional Annexes did not adequately address special needs populations.
  • States should designate a specific State agency that is responsible for providing oversight and ensuring accountability for including people with disabilities in the shelter operations process.
  • Timely warnings requiring emergency actions are not adequately disseminated to custodial institutions, appropriate government officials, and the public.
  • The ability to give the public accurate, timely, and useful information and instructions through the emergency period should be strengthened.
  • Significant weaknesses in evacuation planning are an area of profound concern.
  • Capabilities to manage reception and care for large numbers of evacuees are inadequate.
  • Capabilities to track patients under emergency or disaster conditions and license of out-of-State medical personnel are limited.
  • Resource management is the “Achilles heel” of emergency planning.  Resource Management Annexes do not adequately describe in detail the means, organization, and process by which States and urban areas will find, obtain, allocate, track, and distribute resources to meet operational needs.
  • To strengthen catastrophic planning capabilities, States and urban areas should clearly define resource requirements, conduct resource inventories, match available resources to requirements, and identify and resolve shortfalls.
  • Initial Conclusions for the Federal Government:
  • Planning products, processes, tools, and technologies should be developed to facilitate a common nationwide approach to catastrophic planning in accordance with the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Planning modernization should be fully integrated with other key homeland security initiatives.
  • Clear guidance should be developed on how State and local governments plan for coordinated operations with Federal partners under the National Response Plan.
  • Existing Federal technical assistance should be used to help States and urban areas address the specific issues identified during the Nationwide Plan Review.
  • Critical tasks, target capabilities, and associated performance measures, such as those identified in the National Preparedness Goal should serve as the common reference system for planning and the language of synchronization.
  • Detailed planning assumptions and planning magnitudes for catastrophic incidents should be defined, such as has been initiated through the National Planning Scenarios.
  • Current preparedness data should be readily accessible to planners.
  • Regional planning capabilities, processes, and resources should be strengthened in accordance with the National Preparedness Goals National Priorities to Expand Regional Collaboration and Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Collaboration between government and non-governmental entities should be strengthened at all levels, as outlined in the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priority to Expand Regional Collaboration.
  • The Federal Government should develop a consistent definition of the term “special needs.”  
  • The Federal Government should provide guidance to States and local governments on incorporation of disability-related demographic analysis into emergency planning.  
  • Federal, State, and local governments should work with the private sector to identify and coordinate effective means of transporting individuals with disabilities before, during, and after an emergency.  
  • Improvements in public preparedness and emergency public information should be implemented in accordance with the National Preparedness Goal’s National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Federal, State, and local governments should take action to better integrate non-governmental resources to meet surge capacity.
  • The Federal Government should provide the leadership, doctrine, policies, guidance, standards, and resources necessary to build a shared national homeland security planning system.
  • Identification of desired technologies, tools, and architecture(s) for the national homeland security planning community should be included in the National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Comprehensive national guidance on the potential consequences associated with catastrophic risks and hazards should be developed to drive risk management and operational planning.
  • Development of focused training, education, and professional development programs for homeland security planners should be included in the National Priority to Strengthen Planning and Citizen Preparedness Capabilities.
  • Collaborative planning and planning excellence should be incentivized.  Funding and projects should be linked to operational readiness through a specific task or capability in a plan or plan annex.
  • Federal, State, and local governments should increase the participation of people with disabilities and disability subject-matter experts in the development and execution of plans, training, and exercises.  
  • The Federal Government should provide technical assistance to clarify the extent to which emergency communications, including public information associated with emergencies, must be in accessible formats for persons with disabilities.  This assistance should address all aspects of communication, including, for example, televised and other types of emergency notification and instructions, shelter announcements, and applications and forms for government and private disaster benefits.
  • The status of the Nation’s plans should be a central focus of the annual report to the President on the Nation’s preparedness required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 (HSPD-8).
  • Emergency Operations Plans should be a focal point for resource allocation, accountability, and assessments of operational readiness.
  • Performance management frameworks to support the National Preparedness Goal should measure the ability to:

    -- Integrate a multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency response based on the intersection of tasks and capabilities in combined plans; and
    -- Maintain operations in the face of disruptions of service, damage to the environment in which operations occur, or loss of critical resources.