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Over the past 20 years, natural and man-made disasters have increased in frequency, severity and cost. On average, 24 percent of counties have experienced at least one disaster in each of the last three years. The past three hurricane and wildfire seasons have included six hurricanes that combined to cost over $330 billion in damages and more than eight wildfires causing over $40 billion in damages. These disasters showcase the need for government officials, particularly county governments, to renew their focus on their planning and response readiness activities. Consequently, the U.S. has learned the importance of tactics and strategies that include scenario planning, land use planning, evacuation planning, building code adoption and enforcement, internal and external communication planning, citizen preparation, controlling information on social media, tracking volunteer hours and the impact of disaster on goods movement and industry.

In May 2018, NACo conducted a survey to assess key aspects of county emergency management, including organizational structure, budgets and funding, personnel and training, use of technology and ways counties collaborate with other government entities and nongovernmental organizations. NACo received completed responses from 397 counties in June 2018, representing all census divisions and 45 of the 50 states. The responding counties ranged in size from nearly 500 residents to more than 4.6 million, thus allowing NACo to identify general trends for small, medium and large counties. Of large counties – or counties with populations of over 500,000 – 26 out of 131 responded. Of medium counties – or counties with populations ranging from 50,000 to 500,000 – 126 out of 821 responded. Of small counties – or small counties with populations of under 50,000 – 245 out of 2,117 responded.

This report presents the findings from the Survey on Emergency Management in County Government.