Engaging the Whole Community

Whole Community
Engaging the Whole Community

Whole Community is an approach to emergency management that reinforces that our nation’s emergency management team must leverage all of the resources of the collective in preparing for, protecting against, responding to, recovering from and mitigating against all hazards.  Collectively we must meet the needs of the entire community in each of these areas. Both the composition of the community and the individual needs of community members, regardless of age, economics, or accessibility requirements, must be accounted for when planning and implementing disaster strategies.

When the community is engaged in an authentic dialogue, it becomes empowered to identify its needs and the existing resources that may be used to address them. Collectively, we can determine the best ways to organize and strengthen community assets, capacities, and interests. This allows us, as a nation, to expand our reach and deliver services more efficiently and cost effectively to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Whole Community Principles

FEMA has engaged many of its emergency management partners – including local, tribal, state, territorial, and Federal representatives; academia; nongovernmental organizations; community members; and the private sector – in a national dialogue on a Whole Community approach to emergency management. Through this dialogue, three principles emerged that represent the foundation for Whole Community:

  • Understand and meet the actual needs of the whole community. Community engagement can lead to a deeper understanding of the unique and diverse needs of a population, including its demographics, values, norms, community structures, networks, and relationships. The more we know about our communities, the better we can understand their real-life safety and sustaining needs and their motivations to participate in emergency management-related activities prior to an event.
  • Engage and empower all parts of the community. Engaging the whole community and empowering local action will better position stakeholders to plan for and meet the actual needs of a community and strengthen the local capacity to deal with the consequences of all threats and hazards. This requires all members of the community to be part of the emergency management team, which should include diverse community members, social and community service groups and institutions, faith-based and disability groups, academia, professional associations, and the private and nonprofit sectors, while including government agencies who may not traditionally have been directly involved in emergency management. When the community is engaged in an authentic dialogue, it becomes empowered to identify its needs and the existing resources that may be used to address them.
  • Strengthen what works well in communities on a daily basis. A Whole Community approach to building community resilience requires finding ways to support and strengthen the institutions, assets, and networks that already work well in communities and are working to address issues that are important to community members on a daily basis. Existing structures and relationships that are present in the daily lives of individuals, families, businesses, and organizations before an incident occurs can be leveraged and empowered to act effectively during and after a disaster strikes.
A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action

In the document, FEMA synthesized what was learned through the National Dialogue to reflect some of the successes of a Whole Community approach across the country.

Download: A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action
(PDF 1.4MB)

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.  For more information click here.

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