EMTs, firefighters and police officers play key roles in preparing areas for disaster, equipping residents and community leaders alike with the knowledge and resources they need to recover from such events. This past year, agencies across the U.S. have adopted many strategies to help ensure their regions are well-prepared for disasters, including:

Emphasizing continuous assessment to promote community survival
Few natural disasters can be predicted, but that does not prevent communities from preparing for the threat. An emphasis on continuous training before, during and after emergencies can drastically increase the chances of survival for first responders and the citizens they serve.

Having advance and in-depth knowledge of available resources can help communities weather and recover from a large-scale disaster. During the event, the efficiency and timeliness of communications are critical. First responders must be able to access and implement their strategic plans quickly. Following a disaster, emergency response agencies must assess damage and evaluate the results. Through a continuing cycle of assessment and implementation, agencies are discovering ways to improve future response to disaster.

Preparing teachers to become first responders in the wake of school threats
Over the past several years, the number of school shootings has risen, prompting agencies to train teachers to act as first responders. Predicting mass-casualty threats is difficult, and delays in response are often fatal.

Since keeping students and faculty safe during such an emergency is paramount, local law enforcement agencies are actively training teachers to both prevent and react to campus shootings. This on-site awareness helps to identify students and employees prior to an incident, to intervene and prevent violence before it happens. Quick reaction to a shooter increases the chances of survival for others until professional first responders arrive.

Developing tactical medical teams to improve survival odds for communities
Unlike traditionally trained EMTs, tactical medical teams are equipped to move into “hot zones” during a crisis to provide needed medical care. By teaching individuals emergency medical skills and special operations tactics,  agencies ensure that teams can provide immediate assistance to injured people who have been harmed in places that are not yet secured. Among the factors tactical medical teams are prepared to experience are extreme heat, inclement weather and poor visibility.

Creating fusion centers to strengthen communication between first responders
Fusion centers were created to improve the inter-departmental communication between first responder groups, acting as a hub for agencies across levels and regions. These institutions collect vital information from official organizations, improving federal communication and reducing the likelihood of preventable attacks or disasters.

Fusion centers are not without critics. Some believe these hubs are inefficient, arguing that they waste valuable resources and bloat the scope of their original mission. Others, however, see these centers as an effective means of sharing the most up-to-date information with vigilant agencies. Beyond merely meeting their goals of improving communication, fusion centers are making strides toward changing a culture of competitiveness between jurisdictions to one which encourages cooperation toward a shared mission.

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