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FEMA Administrator's Third Letter to Emergency Managers

Pete Gaynor's advice for being ready for a disaster in a COVID-19 environment.

We all know that disasters don't take a holiday — in fact they like holidays, in my experience. 

Thus, Peter Gaynor, FEMA administrator, has issued his third letter in as many months, to every state and local emergency manager. There are a number of messages in the letter, but a big one is that we will have a significant natural hazard season(s) ahead of us with hurricanes, wildfires for sure, on top of the traditional flooding events and other severe weather like tornadoes. In this region of the United States where I live, there is the ever-present threat of an earthquake, which is a no-notice disaster, looming large. 

Highlighted below are some basic questions he asks everyone to think about to assess their preparedness for the coming months — which could coincide with a resurgence of the coronavirus. Here are his questions: 

"I ask all of you to review your planning, to include emergency operations, mass care, evacuation, continuity, resource management, mutual aid, logistics, public information, and recovery considerations against our ongoing COVID-19 response. Are planning assumptions still valid when applying current and future COVID-19 demands? Are the agreements you have with other partners and organizations, both internal and external, still binding? Have other partners you heavily rely on, either modified and/or lowered their exposure to risk without informing you? Are mutual aid agreements, contractual service agreements, memoranda of understanding, other mutual arrangements still binding considering the complexity of COVID-19? Have you created public information that includes traditional hazards like hurricane evacuations and COVID-19 guidance?"

Now is the time to answer the questions. It will be an "open book test" when disaster does strike. 

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.