To ensure individuals and families, in particular the elderly and vulnerable, know what to do during disasters and are self-sufficient for 72 hours after a disaster, FOCUS USA promotes three key steps: (1) make a plan, (2) build or buy an emergency kit and (3) stay informed.
The FOCUS Family Emergency Plan (FEP) consists of a communications plan and an evacuation plan. The communications plan helps families identify how they will communicate with one another during a disaster, while the evacuation plan allows families to determine how they will evacuate their home and establish where they will meet if they are separated. Additionally, families are encouraged to buy or build a 72-hour emergency kit. These kits contain essential items such as food, water, first aid and other useful supplies that may be needed to ensure self-sufficiency. FOCUS USA also encourages individuals and families to stay informed by monitoring news sites and downloading smartphone apps, which can provide pertinent preparedness information and emergency alerts in times of disaster. In 2015 alone, hundreds of families across the US completed these three steps, and this effort will continue and strengthen in coming years, to help build disaster-resilient communities across the US. In addition, at community centres across the US, FOCUS USA supports Disaster Management Teams in administering local hazard drills. These drills allow the community an opportunity to practice what steps they should take (i.e. shelter-in-place) to ensure they stay safe during disasters. Early warning systems and procedures are also in place to alert communities of inclement weather and disasters, and provide an opportunity to conduct rapid assessment to ensure their safety.
Disaster Management Team volunteers are an integral part FOCUS USA’s work across the country. To better support communities, DMT volunteers and their extended teams are trained in first aid, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) skills. At the end of 2017, nearly 1,200 volunteers had received this training across the country. Disaster Management Team volunteers are also trained in the Incident Command System, a standardised global best practice in emergency management.
In addition, volunteers engage in regional simulation exercises to test their decision-making and response capacities so that they are better prepared to respond to actual incidents. In 2016, FOCUS USA and Canada held its first North American simulation exercise to assess response capacities from a cross-national perspective. The exercise assessed teams at local, regional and national levels, and provided an opportunity to examine early warning systems, communications tools, decision-making, cross-team collaboration and other disaster response elements. By leveraging its Memorandum of Understanding with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, FOCUS USA coordinates advanced trainings to help develop specialised volunteers. Over the last three years FOCUS has sent volunteers to receive training from the California Specialized Training Institute, and volunteers have been trained in Emergency Operations Centres, Advanced Emergency Management and Incident Command Systems coordination, and other innovative disaster management trainings.