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Faithful Readiness: Engaging the Whole Community in Emergency Management

David Myers, the Director of the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighbor Partnerships, discusses the importance of preparedness of the whole community in emergency management and hometown security.

What does it mean to be faithfully ready? What does it mean to engage the whole community in emergency management and hometown security?

We posed these questions to more than 300 faith, government, first responders, community and youth-serving organizations who gathered over a three-day period to learn and share strategies to prepare individuals, families and communities for all hazards.

As a part of National Preparedness Month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center hosted its Faithful Readiness Conference in partnership with FEMA Region IX, US Customs and Border Protection, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS Intelligence & Analysis, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, AZ State Division of Emergency Management, Pima County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, the America Red Cross and a host of faith-based and community leaders in Tucson.

Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President, spoke at the plenary session as well as hosting a meeting with approximately 30 pastors, faith, government and community leaders. Mr. DuBois responded to questions on disaster preparedness, jobs, access to grants information, fatherhood, prisoner reentry and youth engagement.

Keynote speakers included FEMA Region IX Administrator Nancy Ward; aide to Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford; and Tucson shooting survivor Pam Simon, Pima County Board Chairman Ramon Valadez and State Emergency Manager Lou Trammel. Rev. Dr. Grady Scott, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, inspired the audience with his presentation on the role of faith leaders in tragic incident response.

On the final day, we hosted a table top exercise -- Operation Faithfully Ready -- with more than 150 participants. Pima County Emergency Manager Mike Hein led the exercise with participation by Cochise County Emergency Manager Mike Evans and Rio Rico Fire Chief Les Caid. Pastor Tommy Simpson, co-chair of the Sierra Vista Ministers’ Alliance, and Rebecca Pitman, Tucson Youth Development, co-led the youth engagement exercise. The scenario, a mass reception/mass evacuation response as a result of a catastrophic Earthquake, tested the ability of the groups to work together across sectors to respond to the emerging needs of 100,000 evacuees into their region.

We are grateful to the 16 agency partners and exhibitors at Faithful Readiness, including the National Weather Service, state and local Citizens' Corps Councils, state health department, Arizona Center for Disability Law, US Small Business Administration and US Housing and Urban Development, all of whom have significant efforts in preparing communities for disasters.

Maiola Coleman, founder, Community Alliance Addressing Disparities, said: “we will continue the great work that Faithful Readiness has started—especially with our youth.” We thank the leaders of southern Arizona, who are faithfully ready, indeed!

David Myers serves as the Director of the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighbor Partnerships