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FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Grants

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the PDM Program to help communities to prepare for various disaster events to include Active Shooter events. Below are some more pulled quotes from a FEMA brochure to assist in the understanding of the PDM Grant program and their insights into addressing Pre-Disaster Mitigation plans/efforts.

The PDM Program, authorized by Section 203 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, is designed to assist States, territories, Federally-recognized tribes, and local communities in implementing a sustained pre-disaster natural hazard mitigation program. The goal is to reduce overall risk to the population and structures from future hazard events, while also reducing reliance on Federal funding in future disasters. This program awards planning and project grants and provides opportunities for raising public awareness about reducing future losses before disaster strikes. PDM grants are funded annually by Congressional appropriations and are awarded on a nationally competitive basis.

Planning for Active Shooter events has and will continue to increase as more of these events occur. Current mitigation efforts are concentrating on limiting access control, cameras and training, all which are necessary but must always be 100% perfect whereas a disaster can occur if there is one failure of these capabilities during an active shooter event. Active shooter mitigation plans, to be effective, must be in place before the event and cannot minimize the negative impact of an event after the fact.

Other risk reduction methods may have some deference value and/or some delay procedures but all these must be effective 100% of the time without any failure to be reliable. A properly designed protective feature that provides a physical barrier gives the best probability for no injuries or deaths during an Active Shooter event.

Obviously, the sentences in Bold are the focus in this document for this discussion. FEMA identifies that the standard mitigation efforts are necessary and should continue but does not ensure success as one failure will result in an active shooter disaster. A good security plan will include passive and active countermeasures, that are redundant and overlapping. For example, there may be 2 or 3 different delay mechanisms (not just one) and video capabilities from cameras in the open and other cameras covertly installed. And not all of these capabilities need to be touted and place in documents online for a potential “bad guy” to obtain.

The second point FEMA highlights is mitigation plans and efforts must be in place before the event, however it seems that most people are in denial that an active shooter event can occur here (where ever they are). Non-security professionals think 2 or 3 of these efforts are good enough when compared to not planning at all. That approach will not provide the level of protection the school system or parents want if an actual active shooter event occurs.

The last sentence is the final word. A “properly designed physical barrier” gives the best probability for no deaths or injuries during an Active Shooter event. This publication is about 5 years old (long before the VAST6 was designed) and, since then, the number of Active Shooter events in schools has increased significantly. The VAST6 is a very viable solution when looking at its features and FEMA’s statement that a physical barrier is the best protection feature. VAST6 does not required a major construction effort, all components fit through a standard door for installation, does not take up a large amount of classroom space when not in use, readily available for quick entry without leaving the classroom, meets FEMA ballistic protection requirements, and has significant structural capabilities as a tornado shelter.

One last thought: The PDM Grant could pay for 75% of the costs of preparing schools, classrooms and other areas for protection during an Active Shooter event. There were 2891 PDM grants approved between 2014 to 2016 and can be found on the FEMA.gov website under “PDMC-PL-06-AR-2016-003” Excel spreadsheet. However, not one organization or community has ever received a PDM Grant without first applying for the PDM grant. We also have been coordinating with grant writers who are ready to prepare these PDM grants.

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