Opinion

Sandy proves elected leaders need emergency management training | Hildreth

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, comments from mayors and other elected officials blasting the FEMA response are being made out of frustration.

I have experienced firsthand the citizens and community you serve and truly care about suffering from the devastation of a disaster. However, I must remind these officials and elected officials in our nation how the system works.

All disasters are local.

Disasters are a true test of the leadership and preparedness of an elected official. Especially in a small community or in a community that lacks dedicated emergency management personnel (separate from police and fire), citizens deserve elected leaders who take the time and do what is necessary to gain the skills, awareness and knowledge that might be needed when a disaster strikes.

Many of those officials are unaware that programs exist where they can gain this insight at little or no cost. Officials ought to take advantage of these great programs and do what they were elected to do, protect their communities.

DHS/FEMA operates a series of training programs that are open and a benefit to elected and other policy leaders. Among these is the Integrated Emergency Management Program (IEMC) that is available at the Emergency Management Institute located in Emmitsburg, Md.

In the IEMC classroom, participants not only learn about the emergency management process, but they also have the opportunity to apply what they learn in realistic disaster scenarios and functional exercises. Participants assume a similar role to what they play in real life and learn new skills and concepts needed in all phases of emergencies. The best part is that these classes are free.

Applications are now being accepted for 2013 classes at training.fema.gov/EMICourses/. FEMA covers the cost of training, transportation from the airport, housing on the campus of the National Emergency Training Center (where EMI is housed) and reimburses the cost of transportation to the Washington, D.C. area. The only cost to the participant is the time to take the class (typically one week) and the cost of the food ticket (usually around $100).

I encourage you to look at this and other programs that are available and encourage your elected leaders to take advantage of these programs. The skills they gain might just make the difference during the next disaster. The life they save might be someone you care about.

Richard Hildreth, former mayor of Pacific, is the public information officer for the White River Valley Citizen Corps Council. He is certified by FEMA as a master exercise practitioner and served on the State Emergency Management Council. Reach him at 253-347-8514 or Richhildreth@aol.com.

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