GIS and the National Preparedness System

Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8) describes the Nation’s approach to national preparedness.  The National Preparedness Goal is the cornerstone for the implementation of PPD-8; identified within it are the Nation’s core capabilities across five mission areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery.  The National Preparedness System is the instrument the Nation will employ to build, sustain, and deliver those core capabilities in order to achieve the goal of a secure and resilient Nation.  Recommend you read-up on PPD-8 and the NPS if you haven’t already.  Don’t have much time – at an absolute minimum take time to read the National Preparedness System Description over your morning cup of coffee, you won’t be disappointed.

First we need to keep in mind what the National Preparedness System (NPS) means at the local level – and what its implementation looks like.  The NPS is not just a theoretical construct from the beltway around Washington, DC.  It was developed by and for the nation, communities of all sizes and dynamics.  Each and every single one of us is a part of making the goal real – and those of us that are in public safety have even greater responsibility in building more security and resilient communities locally, regionally, and eventually nationwide.

How?  By doing what we do every single day, and doing it through the lens of the National Preparedness System.  For example, the first component of the NPS is ‘Identifying and Assessing Risk’.  Again we ask the question – what does that mean to me?  While you may not be directly responsible for conducting formal risk assessments for your community or jurisdiction, you are responsible for maintaining an understanding of the variety of risks that are faced by your community and ensuring that your decisions are risk-informed.  Further, the second component of the NPS is ‘Estimating Capability Requirements’.  You are likely already estimating capability requirements in your community, maybe without even realizing it.  For instance, if you are working with a local fire department you have set a ‘capability target’ for the time required for a unit to respond to (and arrive at) an incident.  You have then assessed what resources are required to meet that target.  Now apply the same process to all related functions, planning efforts and so on associated with the 31 core capabilities.  The ways that NPS relates to what we do every single day at the local level are endless.

The question at the heart of this blog – where is GIS in PPD-8 and the National Preparedness System?  Many would jump to the conclusion that it is one of the 31 core capabilities.  Or maybe that it is a component of the NPS.  Think again.  Its none of these things.

Why?  Well we don’t “officially” know why but there appears to be very good reason.  Is GIS used in operational coordination? Yes, absolutely and it enhances the quality of coordination that occurs before and during incidents of all types and sizes.  Is GIS used in infrastructure systems?  Without a doubt.   In fact, infrastructure system owners, managers, and operators are some of the most advanced in applying GIS as a preparedness tool.   The ‘moral’ of the story is that GIS is not a capability in and of itself.  GIS is an enabling set of tools (albeit highly critical) that supports delivery of all 31 core capabilities.  GIS does not fit nice and cleanly within any one core capability.  In fact, if we put GIS into one core capability – or made it its own core capability – we’d loose sight of the potential that GIS has to offer in implementing the National Preparedness System.  What we really need to do is define the role that GIS has (and can potentially have) in helping to make our community(ies) stronger and more resilient.  When you read the National Preparedness System Description over coffee ask yourself: How can I better use GIS in my job and in my community?  How can GIS help make my community more prepared?

And with that please share your thoughts – and ideas – for how you are (or plan to) using GIS to enhance your community’s preparedness.