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Tuesday, 20 November 2007 23:45

The Triad Alliance "Preparing the Vulnerable Population"

Written by  Dan S. Lunsford
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The terms 'vulnerable', 'at-risk', or 'under-served' populations are associated with specific groups or segments of a community whose needs are often not met using the traditional services provided by political sub-divisions, especially during periods of local emergencies or disasters. This population may represent those people that are physically or mentally disabled, non-speaking English, culturally inaccessible, medically or chemically dependent, elderly or children, and homeless.

The vulnerable population is usually associated with Community Based Organizations (CBO). CBOs are local organizations (usually non-profit) residing in communities serving the needs of specific populations within the community. CBO clients are traditionally, the community's under-served or at-risk population.

The Issue

During the last ten years in the aftermath of numerous natural and manmade disasters throughout the United States, a variety of complex and special human services needs have surfaced impacting thousands of people. Has state and local government adequately planned and are they prepared to meet these needs? Following the Loma Prieta earthquake (October-1989) in the San Francisco area and the Northridge earthquake in the Los Angeles area (January-1994), emergency services professionals became painfully aware that the traditional response and recovery systems were not able to successfully satisfy all the human services needs. The typical 'canned approach' to delivering emergency services used by many local governments, does not always provide the essential services for that portion of the population requiring special needs'the vulnerable population.

As past, current, and future disasters occur, they will continue to highlight the vulnerable or at-risk populations of communities. Local governments need to avoid the myths of 'one emergency response will work for all' or 'don't worry, the CBOs will take care of it'. Local government's elected officials become legally responsible for ensuring that the appropriate and necessary emergency responses are taken to protect life and property. When disasters threaten or strike, communities expect the elected and city officials to conduct timely and effective emergency responses protecting all members of the community; and the vulnerable population is no exception. The City of San Leandro, California (located in the San Francisco Bay area region) in partnership with the Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters (CARD) has taken the steps to address the special and unique needs associated with the community's vulnerable population during and after a disaster.

The Risk and strategy

In the wake of the collaboration between the City and CARD, the U.S. Geological Survey published a report in October 1999, which in part stated:

'On the basis of research conducted since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientists conclude that there is a 70% probability of at least one magnitude 6.7 or greater quake, capable of causing widespread damage, striking the San Francisco Bay region before 2030. Major quakes may occur in any part of this rapidly growing region. This emphasizes the urgency for all communities in the Bay region to continue preparing for earthquakes.'

Acknowledging this significant risk, and recognizing the special needs of the community's vulnerable population, the City and CARD co-developed an alliance to ensure that the city's high-risk clients didn't 'fall through the cracks' during the response and recovery phases of an emergency. This strategy is founded on the premise of each CBO having an agency emergency plan and being prepared to survive on their own for a minimum of 72 hours or longer, until help arrives. This would enable the CBO to continue a minimum level of critical services to their clients, who are traditionally the community's most vulnerable population. This alliance has come to be known as 'The Triad Alliance'.

The Triad Alliance

he City and CARD began a partnership focused on preparing the community's vulnerable population based on the most significant natural hazard threatening the community, the earthquake, using the strategy as listed above. A City and CARD focus group was formed and after numerous work sessions, 'The Triad Alliance' emerged. This alliance became the advocate and instrument in implementing, facilitating, and maintaining the strategy in union with the City's CBOs in preparing the community's vulnerable population. The organizational components of this collaborative alliance are:

1. City: The Emergency Services Division, located in the City Manager's Office, is an active co-founder of the alliance and represents the City in alliance matters and activities. The Division's mission in part is to

''continue to develop, implement, and maintain a comprehensive and progressive emergency management program focused on the effective delivery of emergency services to the community''

The alliance strategy effectively compliments a key objective of the Division's mission:

'Enhance the capability to coordinate emergency response and recovery efforts among city government, school districts, business, community based organizations, and special districts.'

2. CARD: Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters, also a co-founder of the alliance, is a non-profit organization founded in 1994 (with the support of the American Red Cross and United Way) resulting from the unmet needs of the vulnerable populations during and following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. CARD's focus is the community's under-served population. The mission of CARD in part is to

''prepare local Community Based Organizations to survive at least 72 hours and effectively participate in local government response and recovery efforts in serving the special needs of their clients'the vulnerable, culturally diverse, and under-served populations.'

CARD has received local, state, national, and international recognition for its model of coordinating disaster planning for at-risk populations. In 1995 CARD traveled to Kobe, Japan following the great earthquake to present CARD's planning model to community organizations for future implementation. Additionally, CARD received the prestigious California Emergency Services Association Gold Award in 1996 for exceptional work in disaster preparedness and in 1998 received the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Outstanding Non-Profit Organization Award for its innovative approach to hazard reduction.

3. CBOs: Community Based Organizations are the third principal member of the alliance. All forty CBOs within the City are part of the alliance and form a direct link to the community's vulnerable population'their clients. CBOs have special experience, knowledge, and skills necessary in serving their clients; this unique know-how, understanding, and expertise becomes an invaluable resource during the response and recovery phases of an emergency or disaster. The City's emergency strategy becomes more responsive and effective in addressing the human services issues by incorporating CBOs into the City's emergency plan and emergency organization. This is accomplished by designating two of the community's CBOs as Lead Agencies; a Lead Agency is the critical link between the City and the other CBOs. Lead Agencies facilitate local CBO meetings, participate as a member of the City's emergency organization, and maintain a critical network of information between the City, CARD and the other CBOs.

The Triad Alliance becomes the best assurance that the special needs of the vulnerable population will be successfully addressed during short and long term emergency operations. The alliance consists of a number of essential elements that together create a program in which CBOs are more pre-disaster prepared, thus enabling them to better serve their clients during and following a disaster.

Elements of Success

The members of the alliance have developed and implemented a set of program elements that form the foundation of the alliance strategy; the elements are:

. Annual Training Plan: The training plan consists of six core courses taught by the City's Emergency Services Division and Card, who teaches the majority of courses. The courses are (1) Overview of the Standardized Emergency Management System, (2) Basic Emergency Plan & Disaster First Aid, (3) Self/Home Preparation & Hazards in the Workplace, (4) Tabletop Disaster Exercise, (5) Cost Recovery Guidelines, and (6) CPR & First Aid.

The courses are free to the CBOs, except for a minimal charge for equipment and material costs involving the CPR & First Aid course. The courses are scheduled and offered several times throughout the fiscal year to accommodate individual CBO schedules. The courses are designed to provide each CBO with an individualized agency emergency plan and basic emergency education, training, and awareness specific to the City of San Leandro. Additionally, individual CBOs receiving grant funding from the City are required to participate in courses 1 through 4 listed above, in order to maintain funding eligibility.

Additionally, as part of the annual training plan, CARD has designed and distributed three critical emergency documents to the local Community Based Organizations: (1) an 'Agency Emergency Plan', (2) a 'Cost Recovery Guide', and (3) a 'County Coordinated Disaster Response Plan'.

2. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): The City, CARD, and the two Lead Agencies (CBOs) entered into an MOU delineating the specific alliance responsibilities of each member. The MOU is signed by the City Manager and the CBO Executive Directors, which recognizes and formalizes The Triad Alliance as an integral part of the City's emergency services program and strategy.

3. Emergency Organization: Representatives from CARD and the CBO Lead Agencies have been formally added to the City's emergency organization located in the Operations Section as reflected by the City's Incident Command System. Thus during emergencies, when the City's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is activated, CARD and the Lead Agencies enhance the City's response and recovery efforts by providing their unique expertise and knowledge involving the vulnerable population. Additionally, they become the critical link between the CBOs located throughout the community and the City's emergency organization, providing and coordinating specific information and resources. As members of the City's emergency organization, CARD and the Lead Agencies routinely participate in all City EOC training including disaster exercises.

4. Quarterly Meetings: The City hosts quarterly CBO meetings; the CBO Lead Agencies and CARD facilitate the meetings. The City's Emergency Services Division and CARD develop the meeting agendas which focus on emergency management issues involving preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery topics impacting CBOs and ultimately the vulnerable population. This forum provides essential networking and sharing of preparedness information and resources between the City, CARD and the CBO community.

5. Budget: Funding is an essential component of any program, and The Triad Alliance is no exception. CARD provides the City on-going emergency management services (1) as a permanent member of the emergency organization (meetings and training), (2) facilitating CBO meetings, (3) conducting CBO training and workshops, and (4) performing on-site mitigation surveys for CBOs. These services are essential to the success of The Triad Alliance and the City's overall emergency response strategy. Thus the City has added CARD to its annual budget as a permanent part of the Emergency Services Division's budget.

Even with the above essential elements, The Triad Alliance would not exist without three more very important elements'executive support, a program mentor, and a CBO with a unique mission. The Triad Alliance was fortunate to have the enduring support of the City Council and operational support of the City Manager, while the City's Emergency Services Manager assumed the role of program mentor. CARD's unique mission in preparing other CBOs to survive disasters was a natural fit for the alliance. This support, mentorship, and unique fit became crucial in establishing, developing, programming, and funding the alliance.

The Challenge

Recent disasters demonstrate that traditional response agencies are often ill equipped to respond to the special needs of our vulnerable populations. Given the high potential for future catastrophic disasters throughout the United States, it is imperative to establish an emergency protocol and plan for Community Based Organizations who bring a unique expertise in delivering services to people with language, cultural, and accessibility needs. The challenge for emergency management professionals is to integrate the CBOs' skill and knowledge into the emergency services plans and strategy, connecting them to local government to enhance the response and recovery efforts to our special populations...The Triad Alliance provides that essential participation and linkage.


Dan S. Lunsford, CEM, has completed 25 years in law enforcement and emergency management in California, and 29 years in the Marine Corps reserve. He is currently the Emergency Services Manager with the City of San Leandro and reports to the City Manager. He is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), and holds an undergraduate degree in business and masters degree in public administration from San Diego State University. He is also a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley Certificate Program in Emergency Preparedness Planning and Management.

For more information about The Triad Alliance, contact Dan Lunsford, Emergency Services Manager, San Leandro, California at 510-577-3332 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Printed In Summer 2000
Read 4020 times Last modified on Thursday, 11 October 2012 08:18