FEMA imagines vastly different emergency management landscape in 2030

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Smaller government budgets and more natural disasters, as a result of climate change, will deplete the Federal Emergency Management Agency's resources in the future, so the agency will rely more on volunteers, local know-how and technology to cope, it says in a Jan. 13 report (.pdf) that imagines emergency management in the year 2030.

The report is part of FEMA's Strategic Foresight Initiative and contains findings from a July 2011 workshop where about 60 members of the emergency management community met over four days to analyze future scenarios.

One of FEMA's suggestions is for schools to include emergency management skills tailored to the local environment in their curricula, similar to efforts in the second half of the 20th century to educate people about safe driving and fire safety.

The agency says it will rely on volunteers in operational and support roles and envisions databases of pre-approved lists of volunteers who have particular skills and qualifications. It also says it intends to leverage the surge in retired baby boomers as a source of volunteers.

Additionally, emergency management will lean heavily on technology, including new risk management tools and social media as a means to communicate news and information. Advances in unmanned aerial vehicle and robot technology could also provide new capabilities.

Collaboration between governments and with the private sector will also help emergency management deal with fewer resources, the report says. States and municipalities will have to share more resources and clearly define cross-border protocols. The report notes that currently, doctors and nurses cannot cross state lines to help in emergencies unless a governor declares a state of emergency. Other such obstacles to interoperability, like law enforcement and technology, require reform in order for collaboration to work, FEMA says.

Emergency management credentials accepted across the country or large regions would allow for more mobile personnel.

The report's call for more engagement with the private sector mentions that FEMA will "solicit its contribution," but it is unclear what incentives will lead businesses to participate.

For more:
- download the report(.pdf)

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