A Letter to Domestic Preparedness Readers

Dear Domestic Preparedness Readers,

As every Bay Area resident and baseball fan knows, this October marks more than one anniversary for the community.

The 1989 World Series was the first ever cross-bay battle between the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants.  But during the warm-ups of game three, at 5:15 p.m. on the 17th of October, the shaking started and the Loma Prieta earthquake rumbled across Northern California to write its own destructive page of history.

Two decades later, those 10-15 seconds of shaking and tremors still resonate loudly within the emergency preparedness and management communities. What amounted to a few moments serves as a reminder that emergencies can happen at any time, anywhere, and we can be successful only if our entire emergency-management team is prepared.

As a former state employee working in emergency management during the quake, I saw firsthand the many challenges that confront a state in meeting the response and recovery needs of its citizens, and the tremendous role that preparedness can play in meeting those needs.

But one of the most important lessons I learned is that preparedness not only involves advance collaboration among all levels of government and with the private sector, but also that we must  engage the public.

FEMA is not the team. We are only part of a team.  After those few harrowing seconds, almost two decades ago, many times the first emergency response you saw was neighbor helping neighbor.

When writing our emergency plans, we have to stop looking at the public as a liability, but instead look at them for what they are – an indispensable component and member of our emergency management team.

Which is why our team will be successful only if the public is prepared.

September is  National Preparedness Month, and provided an opportunity for all Americans to take steps to increase personal and family preparedness. But you know as well as I do that the need to get the public to prepare is a year-round effort.

For most Americans, preparedness means taking a few simple steps: developing a family emergency plan, putting together an emergency supply kit, and becoming better informed about the hazards that may exist in their communities.  You can always direct people to ready.gov to learn more.

The bottom line is that we can be successful only if we work as a team.

In crafting the National Response Framework (NRF), hundreds of contributors from local, state, and federal agencies – as well as representatives of voluntary agencies, the private sector, and a broad swath of other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) – have provided valuable input to the development of a scalable framework that can be applied across all hazards of varying span and scope.

Under President’s Obama’s leadership, this spirit of teamwork is echoed  throughout the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency as we continue to work aggressively to engage all of our partners in an effort to expand and solidify our national emergency response team, and ensure that as a nation we are prepared for whatever emergency may occur.

The world has changed considerably since that fateful day in October 1989, and so have many of the challenges we face.  But our agency and the emergency response team also have changed.  We are more prepared, engaged, and robust – and we will continue to improve our capabilities.

But the simple fact remains that we can be only as successful as the public is prepared.  Whether it’s going to watch a World Series game, or simply taking your children to school, get a plan, get a kit, and stay informed. We can never forget that day 20 years ago, but we must also ensure that we never forget the valuable lessons we learned that day.  Working together, we must be prepared.

Sincerely Yours,

Nancy L. Ward Regional Administrator FEMA Region IX


Nancy L. Ward
Nancy L. Ward

Nancy L. Ward is regional administrator of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region IX office and prior to that served for six years as director of the region’s Response and Recovery Division – which is responsible for coordinating FEMA disaster-response and -recovery activities in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. She also served as FEMA’s senior transition official for the presidential transition earlier this year and – from 21 January to 16 May – as acting administrator for FEMA. Before joining FEMA, Ms. Ward was chief of the Disaster Assistance Branch and deputy state coordinating officer for the California Office of Emergency Services.



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