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  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Required Elements
  • Executing the Plan
  • Measuring Impact
  • Optional Elements
  • In Action
  • Resources
  • Special Thanks


Prepared is Protected


Building on existing city efforts, the initiative employs a two-tiered training structure to amplify outreach.

To start, the Office of Emergency Management (or the appropriate agency in your city) familiarizes lead volunteers with the city’s disaster preparedness plans and toolkits, and trains these volunteers how to present the materials to public audiences. These lead volunteers then work with outreach volunteers to help broadly disseminate the plans and toolkits by training the outreach volunteers how to engage local households in disaster preparedness discussions. This force multiplication strategy – of volunteers training other volunteers to engage households across the city – is a powerful strategy for priming communities in disaster response.

Prepared is Protected is a high-impact service strategy in which the mayor’s office mobilizes knowledgeable volunteers to bolster disaster awareness and preparedness of households in their communities.


Every year, natural disasters take a stunning toll on human life and property. In the United States, natural disasters affect close to one million people each year, and cause hundreds of deaths and an average of $18 billion in damages – a figure that’s increasing every year.1 As most deaths associated with natural events are preventable2 many mayors work to minimize the damage caused by natural disasters by developing comprehensive emergency preparation and response plans, and ensuring that citizens are well-informed to respond appropriately. Even with these efforts, many households still lack disaster preparedness plans and emergency supplies, and/or are unfamiliar with their communities’ emergency response plans. By deploying volunteers to conduct presentations, engage in preparedness discussions, and disseminate plans and toolkits, the mayor’s office can bridge this critical information gap and help citizens protect themselves in the face of disaster.

CRequired Elements

1.Mayor’s office works with the city’s emergency management agencies, first responders, and disaster-focused nonprofit organizations to develop citizenoriented disaster preparedness plans and toolkits.

2.The Office of Emergency Management (or the appropriate agency in your city) trains lead volunteers on the disaster preparedness plans and toolkits, as well as how to present them to larger audiences.

3.Lead volunteers train and organize outreach volunteers to disseminate the plans and toolkits as well as how to engage households in discussions on disaster preparedness and response.

4.Outreach volunteers canvass neighborhoods and engage individual households in conversation on how to prepare for and respond to a disaster, should one occur.

5.Mayor’s office works with partners to track and report the impact of the initiative.

Required metrics include:

  • Number of lead volunteers
  • Number of outreach volunteers trained in emergency preparedness
  • Number of households and individuals engaged by volunteers to discuss preparedness (e.g., walking through the emergency preparedness materials)

Optional metrics include the number of households that sign up for emergency alerts (as applicable).

DExecuting the Plan

Developing Emergency Preparedness Materials

The mayor’s office works with the Office of Emergency Management and other emergency management agencies to develop a citizen-friendly guide to the city’s emergency plan. This document should set out the most likely disaster scenarios within the jurisdiction, identify first responders and their roles, describe the emergency information system, and explain evacuation and shelter procedures. In addition, a set of simple community maps and lists of key telephone numbers, websites, radio stations and information resources should be included. (See the Resources section for more information.) To supplement the guide, the mayor’s office enlists local first responders or leading volunteer organizations focused on disaster preparedness to develop a household toolkit. The toolkit is a short document outlining the provisions and materials a family should always have on hand in case of disaster or emergency. This document can be adapted from existing toolkits that are available from other cities or the federal government. (See the Resources section for more information.)

Creating A Local Outreach Strategy

Once the emergency preparedness materials have been developed, the mayor’s office solicits input from local community groups, volunteer organizations, or first responders to customize the materials to specific neighborhoods. For example, these partners can help identify the locations of local shelters and other neighborhood specific resources, so that the information can be included in the distributed materials. In addition, these partners can help develop an outreach plan that identifies targeted areas (e.g., impoverished communities with little access to information or language barriers) and outlines a strategy for deploying volunteers to reach audiences in these locations.

Engaging Volunteers

The mayor’s office enlists local partners to recruit and manage volunteers. Two tiers of volunteers will be needed: lead volunteers, who must have prior experience with disaster training or response, such as having completed Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) or American Red Cross programs, and outreach volunteers, for whom no prior experience is necessary.

  • Preparing lead volunteers: The lead volunteers will complete a half-day (e.g., three hours) in-depth training from the Office of Emergency Management (or the appropriate lead emergency management agency appointed by the mayor) on the content of the emergency preparedness materials, as well as how to present the materials to an audience and answer questions that might arise. Using their prior experience in disaster training or response, these volunteers should be well-equipped to discuss unsettling scenarios in a calm and confident manner. As a condition of their participation, lead volunteers will commit to conducting a minimum number of 45-minute formal presentations4 to large groups each year (as an example, some cities feel that a minimum of four per year is a feasible target).
  • Training outreach volunteers: In addition to conducting presentations, lead volunteers are expected to train and manage outreach volunteers who have not previously completed CERT or similar training. Toward that end, lead volunteers will coordinate with partner organizations to set up training sessions with teams of outreach volunteers across the city. At these sessions (e.g., ninety minutes or two hours), lead volunteers facilitate a discussion on the emergency resources available in the community, the specific content of the emergency preparedness materials, as well as the key messages to communicate to households as outreach volunteers disseminate the materials provided. Having already received in-depth training and conducted formal presentations, lead volunteers will share insights from their experiences to personalize the conversation.
  • Informing and preparing the public: Upon completion of the training, outreach volunteers will canvass neighborhoods to engage in conversations with individual households about emergency preparedness. They will provide each household with a copy of the citizen’s emergency guide and toolkit, and discuss what steps to take in the event of an emergency and how to use the toolkit. They can also offer to help households create disaster plans and/or prepare emergency supplies
Securing Resources

While Prepared is Protected is a low-cost initiative, the program will incur expenses related to printing emergency preparedness materials and transporting volunteers to training sessions, presentations, and neighborhood canvassing activities. In some cities, in-kind resources can be secured – for example, printing companies in the community may print emergency preparedness materials free of charge or partner organizations may provide vehicles to transport volunteers. If additional support is needed, grants from federal and state agencies or private foundations may be available. If seeking philanthropic or governmental grant funding, the mayor’s office or non-profit partners may develop a short proposal that describes the opportunity for support and how the funds would be used. Elements of a typical proposal should include:

  • Description of the Prepared is Protected initiative
  • How this initiative would positively impact the city and mitigate the worst outcomes imposed by a disaster
  • Amount of funding requested, proposed breakdown of grant(s) and how those funds would be used (budget is dependent on number of partners and respective roles of each partner)
  • Metrics that would be collected to assess progress
  • Information on Cities of Service (this is especially helpful for national organizations)
  • Recognition plan for the donor (e.g., logo on t-shirts, branding on your city’s service website, etc.)
Recognizing and Thanking Volunteers

Volunteer recognition is an effective recruitment and retention tool. Once volunteers have completed a presentation or neighborhood canvassing, following up with them is encouraged. For instance, consider sending volunteers a thank you letter with the details of their involvement (e.g., when and where they completed the presentation/ canvassing with an estimate of the number of people reached). Sending wallet-size emergency preparation cards or t-shirts with basic emergency preparation procedures may also be considered as a gesture of gratitude.

EMeasuring Impact

Collecting data on the impact of the Prepared is Protected initiative is essential for demonstrating results. The following outcome metrics must be collected:

  • Number of lead volunteers
  • Number of outreach volunteers trained in emergency preparedness
  • Number of households and individuals engaged by volunteers to discuss preparedness (e.g., walking through the emergency preparedness materials)

Optional metrics include the number of households that sign up for emergency alerts (as applicable).

To measure the number of households and individuals that are engaged in discussions on emergency preparedness, creating a tracking system is key. The mayor’s office or a designated local partner should create a basic system that allows outreach volunteers to report back on the number of households and individuals they engage – perhaps via monthly email outreach from the lead partner (e.g., using an online survey) or through a pledge commitment made by the outreach volunteer during his or her initial training.

FOptional Elements

Encourage Pre-Affiliation and Training

Citizens that want to become more involved can receive training to become a member of their local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERTs are volunteer-driven local teams. The 20-hour training is provided free of charge by local first responder organizations such as the city’s fire department or Office of Emergency Management. Volunteers can also receive training in NIMS (National Incident Management System) and ICS (Incident Command System). Established National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOADs), such as the United Way, American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and others also accept volunteers and encourage their volunteers to be “pre-affiliated” by receiving training specific to that organization. In the event of an emergency, pre-affiliated volunteers would know where to go and what to do. Spontaneous volunteers are managed by an organization designated to serve that role, such as a local HandsOn Network affiliate.

Conduct School-Based Outreach

Lead volunteers can visit middle and high schools to conduct assemblies to raise awareness about emergency preparedness. In turn, students then engage their families in developing emergency response plans. Teachers can also implement lesson plans to encourage families to develop their emergency plans and prepare their emergency kits.

Refresh The Message By Tailoring Outreach To Seasonal Risks

Volunteers can revisit households with a focus on particular preparations for regular seasonal risks such as hurricanes, tornados, heat waves, or winter storms. The mayor’s office can also use significant dates, such as the start of hurricane season or the anniversary of a local disaster, to remind people of how to prepare for and respond to an emergency

Leverage Emergency Preparedness Month

September is Emergency Preparedness Month, making it a prime opportunity to conduct public service announcements, awareness events, and drills; it is also an ideal time to recognize volunteers. Corporate sponsors could contribute funds to prepare starter “Go Bags”(kits that provide households with everything they may need in the event of an evacuation) for distribution in connection with Emergency Preparedness Month events..

GPrepared Is Protected In Action

Ready New York

Through a collaboration of the New York City Office of Emergency Management, NYC Service (the office tasked with implementing New York City’s high-impact service plan), and New York Cares (the city’s local HandsOn affiliate), the Ready New York program aims to enhance New Yorkers’ preparedness for all types of emergencies.

The program helps households develop disaster plans, gather emergency supplies, and stay informed through emergency alerts. The 1,400 volunteers participating in the program are heavily relied upon to deliver these messages. Those with prior training (e.g., CERT) complete a three-hour training and conduct formal presentations on emergency preparedness for groups such as tenants associations or residents at senior citizens homes. Those without experience participate in a two-hour discussion with experienced volunteers on what resources are available, as well as what key messages to convey to households. They are then dispatched to canvass neighborhoods door-todoor and attend community meetings.

To measure the impact of its efforts, Ready New York conducts community surveys gauging the extent to which people are prepared for emergencies. Below are some key lessons learned from the Ready New York’s program:


  • Select a lead partner (e.g., the local HandsOn affiliate) with sufficient capacity to recruit and manage a large cadre of volunteers.
  • Ensure volunteer efforts fit within the context of the community’s existing emergency management infrastructure.
  • Do not reinvent the wheel; leverage existing emergency preparedness materials and toolkits where possible, and customize them appropriately.
  • Tailor your outreach strategy to the local context; some areas are more prone to certain types of disasters, and the target audience and messages should vary accordingly.
Sacramento Ready

Sacramento Ready is a regional partnership of local governments working to provide emergency preparation, response training and information to people in the Metropolitan Sacramento Area.

Through a partnership of the Sacramento Mayor’s office, Volunteer Sacramento (the office tasked with implementing Sacramento’s high-impact service plan), the Office of Emergency Services, and the Capital Region Chapter of the American Red Cross, Sacramento Ready uses a sustained preparedness campaign to train and mobilize volunteers with a particular emphasis on special needs populations (e.g., populations whose members may have additional needs before, during, and after an incident in functional areas). Volunteers are recruited to receive CERT and other emergency responder trainings and are assigned to a pre-affiliated National Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster (NVOAD). Over 1,000 new individual volunteers have been recruited and trained in emergency preparedness and have helped to pass along training to over 6,000 residents in their community. (See the Resources section for more information.)

ISpecial Thanks

We’d like to thank the following cities for their support:

  • City of Sacramento, California and Volunteer Sacramento for their technical expertise and support materials.
  • City of New York, New York for their valuable lessons learned and expertise.
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