Miami-Dade works with faith-based organizations on emergency preparedness program

Miami-Dade County and the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security provided an update on March 24 regarding the Building Resilience with Diverse Communities project.

Emergency Manager Curt Sommerhoff launched the project in 2011 in order to advance a "whole community" approach to emergency preparedness and management. The goal of the project was to bring faith-based and community groups together to prepare for disasters in a way that could be replicated in other cities, according to County News.

"The center has learned over these years that in order for a 'culture of preparedness' to be part of daily life across the whole community, we must support the implementation of an intensive effort of 'boots on the ground' partnering, training, technical assistance and capacity building that recognizes and engages key force multipliers as full partners with emergency management," DHS Center Director David Myers said, County News reports.

Myers said engaging with the community and partners cannot be an afterthought to the program. It must be integrated in the big picture and be a focused and key force in communicating with the community.

Since 2011, 27 network leaders have committed resources to the program, and 46 new organizations have joined the program in recent months.

"At a time when we have all had to tighten our belts because of fiscal restraints, the whole community approach has been an effective solution to the problem and not an unfunded mandate," Sommerhoff said, according to County News. "In Miami-Dade County, our inclusion of non-traditional stakeholders has revealed a dynamic untapped resource. Whole community engagement is the emergency management we should have been focused on all along."

Community organizations that have joined the program include Share Your Heart Chaplains' Ministry and the Table of Brotherhood, which have helped provide emergency relief after hurricanes and other storms.

"Building resilience with diverse communities is about connecting with each other and illustrating how to be prepared," Myers said, County News reports. "By engaging with communities, providing social networks for collaboration and identifying models that work, we have seen these are trusted methods for bringing others along."

The BRDC and Miami-Dade County will be featured in a panel in the Resilient Counties forum in San Francisco in May.