The Whole Community: Planning for the Unthinkable

What is Whole Community?

In our nation’s effort to increase preparedness for every conceivable hazard, our biggest strength starts with you: Every individual and every organization has an important role in making our communities –and the nation as a whole –more resilient. In policy terms, we are taking a “Whole Community” approach to national preparedness. What that means in plain language is that we are actively working together with individuals, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations, schools, tribes and all levels of government to improve preparedness. In fact, the President signed Presidential Policy Directive 8/PPD-8: National Preparedness in March 2011, asking all of us to work together on this issue.

Help us Plan for the Unthinkable

Response is focused on ensuring that the nation is able to respond effectively to any threat or hazard, including disasters that have ripple effects into other areas. We place an emphasis on saving and sustaining lives and stabilizing the incident, as well as meeting basic human needs as quickly as possible, restoring basic services and community functions, establishing a safe and secure environment, and supporting the transition to recovery.

The MetaScenario
Although we plan for all types of emergencies year around, we are taking this up a notch to challenge not just FEMA and its government partners – but the nation as a whole. The challenge is to find ever more innovative ways to fulfill critical needs when all of the usual and expected methods are unavailable. To do this, we are using what we call a “MetaScenario.” A MetaScenario is an event or combination of events so large that it seems almost inconceivable. In terms of numbers, this would be a disaster that affects millions of people, with hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries across a range of multiple states.

Sample MetaScenario
A Category 5 hurricane on the scale of Hurricane Andrew is fast approaching southern Florida, forcing mass evacuations in preparation for landfall. Even as the state takes its normal actions, hospitals across Florida and surrounding states are reporting unusually high numbers of patients exhibiting symptoms of a fatal and fast-spreading illness of unknown origin. Compounding both of these issues is a large population of non-English speaking residents and large elderly and disabled community. Clearly, both the pending hurricane and the rapidly spreading illness are critical priorities. All hospitals are full or in the hurricane path. Forty percent or more of the first responders are, or soon will, exhibit signs of illness, further weakening the resources typically used to help and further taxing the system. As the hurricane makes landfall, 7 million people across Florida are in an evacuation zone. Over 190,000 people are dead from the mystery illness, which is now believed to be food-born and not contagious, but still the source is unknown. Another 265,000 are requiring immediate medical attention. Furthermore, transportation workers, utility workers, and other key response workers are among those impacted by the illness, and are unable to keep up with power outages and other infrastructure failures.


The campaigns below are designed to stimulate creative, out-of-the box thinking. After reading the sample MetaScenario above, tell us how you think the private sector could help fulfill urgent needs listed below. We welcome your thoughts, ideas, or suggestions on any or all of the following topics: