Today I released FEMA’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, not just to guide FEMA as an Agency as we lead the way to a more resilient nation, but to serve as a strategy and an anchor for the whole community.
We cannot accomplish this by simply improving and expanding our programs and processes. We, as nation, must address some fundamental, cultural issues in order to become resilient. Resiliency is more than just strengthening our buildings and other infrastructure, it’s making sure that our citizens have the proper tools and skill sets to reduce the impact of future disasters.
This isn’t just our plan though; this plan will be a roadmap for the future of emergency management.
We as individuals need to get back to a “be prepared” mentality that served the nation through periods of both war and peace in the past, through periods of economic prosperity and during times of personal and national austerity. No matter how challenging the time, America has always been and will always be strongest when we ensure that our people are strong.
Embracing this culture of preparedness starts not in Washington, DC, but at home. We need to work to encourage everybody to question how prepared they are, and to act. Do you have CPR training? Do you know how to shut off the water valves and the gas valves in your home? Do you know what to do when a disaster strikes?
This journey does not begin and end at home, but moves out to spawn a culture where neighbor helping neighbor is not just a phrase or an idea, it is the reality. Citizens are the true first responders, so you need to be the help until help arrives.
Know your neighbors, and what they may need if a disaster happens. Build a support network in your community that includes preparing together and having a plan to check on each other after a disaster occurs. We are here to help you prepare and understand your risks, but a true culture of preparedness begins with you.
Part of being prepared is understanding your finances. Does your family have enough savings in case of an emergency? Alarmingly, almost 60 percent of all Americans don’t have $400 in savings. We as a nation need to address financial wellness as a building block of preparedness. We need to double the amount of flood insurance coverage we have in the country because any home can flood, and everyone recovers more quickly when insured. Mother Nature doesn’t recognize flood zone maps, and we currently have too many people at risk. And it’s not just flood insurance, its insurance against high winds in hurricane and tornado-prone areas, and earthquake insurance to protect your investment. Everyone should have the right insurance coverage for the hazards you face.
Everyone – whether you are a public servant, a member of a family, or a business that is part of a community – must work together to make this happen, FEMA alone cannot accomplish these goals.
Now is the time for all of us to prepare and be ready for the next disaster, and to help make our neighbors, communities, and nation more resilient.