The concept of a whole community approach has been recommended for years. However, it has perhaps not been more important than it is today. Compounding events, or disasters within disasters, are why emergency planners stress the importance of planning for the worst but hoping for the best. Well, the time to implement these plans is now. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic does not appear to be ending anytime soon. However, life must go on. “Normal” seasonal disasters like wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods will not wait for communities to replenish supplies, reallocate resources, and hire more staff. Human-caused threats may escalate as bad actors take advantage of physical and technological vulnerabilities that the pandemic exposes. The common primary, secondary, and tertiary effects of smaller threats worsen when compounded with the pandemic response.

This edition of the DomPrep Journal addresses the various ways in which communities can come together to not only respond effectively to the pandemic, but to other scenarios that are certain to arise. Before being able to gain communitywide buy in to any disaster response, it is important to understand how various stakeholders view the threat and its potential consequences. With regard to COVID-19 or other major events, determining what is considered “acceptable losses” to those stakeholders will help determine a course of action that will maximize support for the response.

Education and trainings also need to include various stakeholders. After all, no community threat can be addressed without help from various disciplines. For example, emergency management and homeland security have a lot of overlap that should be addressed with an all-hazards educational approach. Educational and training efforts tend to evolve over time and change with the times. However, there are some core lessons that should be revisited and reimplemented into current training efforts. The National Planning Scenarios from 2006 are one example of core trainings that have been practically forgotten in some jurisdictional planning efforts.

Response is another way that community stakeholders can join forces to protect each other from common threats and bad actors. For example, active shooter preparedness provides opportunities for law enforcement and other community stakeholders to work together to develop trainings and methodologies that better prepare all citizens. Human trafficking is another example of a threat that can occur almost unnoticed if community stakeholders do not know signs to look for. During a pandemic, this type of threat can escalate without a whole community approach.

The bottom line is that, with a whole community approach, communities will be better prepared to face whatever threats present, as well as whenever and wherever they occur. Modern compounding threats do not happen in silos, and neither should the preparedness and response efforts to create viable solutions for addressing the threats and mitigating the consequences.

Catherine L. Feinman

Catherine L. Feinman, M.A., joined Domestic Preparedness in January 2010. She has more than 35 years of publishing experience and currently serves as editor of the Domestic Preparedness Journal,, and The Weekly Brief. She works with writers and other contributors to build and create new content that is relevant to the emergency preparedness, response, and recovery communities. She received a bachelor’s degree in International Business from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management from American Military University.

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