By definition, disaster preparedness professionals are master craftsmen when it comes to planning. It is not in their nature to wait for something catastrophic to happen before taking action. These forward-thinking individuals identify the challenges that could be brought on by both natural and man-made disasters and proactively develop actionable disaster preparedness plans to mitigate hazards. When disasters do occur, this careful planning can save lives, reduce injuries and minimize property damage.
Identifying the Basic Stages of Planning
Disaster preparedness professionals are trained to apply established methodologies when developing comprehensive plans. The five basic stages are:
The research stage involves identifying vulnerabilities, resources, capacities and hazards. During the next stage, the plan is written. It is then published, making it accessible to key organizations in the community who can use it to provide training. The operations stage of emergency preparedness planning involves testing various portions of the plan. All disaster preparedness plans must be dynamic, “living” documents that are frequently updated and revised as needed.
Understanding Urban and Regional Planning
The process is similar for both urban and regional emergency planning. In both cases, the central questions to be answered during an emergency are, “What resource is where?” and “How can those resources be distributed or used to meet needs?” One of the early stages of creating a comprehensive preparedness plan is to research the following factors for any given area:
- Social relations
Disaster preparedness professionals must consider the extent to which the local perceptions and traditions would influence disaster response. One example of how local traditions can influence emergency management is how the New York City subway system was affected on September 11, 2001. Countless people were trapped underground when the Twin Towers were attacked by terrorists, and the widespread power outages put the system on lockdown. Some heroic transit workers were quick to act, and they walked the lines closing emergency brakes to allow the trains to get their passengers safely to the stations. The way in which a local community accesses transportation networks can be a critical factor in disaster preparedness planning.
Identifying Sector-Specific Needs
Another crucial aspect of developing a preparedness plan is identifying the unique, sector-specific needs applicable within the community or region. The following establishments and organizations are examples of entities that must be given special consideration during an emergency response:
- Schools and universities
- Medical centers
- Transportation networks
- Museums and national treasures
For instance, museums with priceless artwork would be given special consideration during a wildfire. Transportation networks can be utilized for evacuation. Medical centers would be given priority for critical resources during disasters that have caused widespread injuries.
Building a Team
Inclusive team building is an important factor when it comes to emergency response. Every member of an organization will have a unique set of responsibilities or expertise that best suits them for a specific duty. Subject matter experts could be representatives from different departments, such as:
- Human resources
- Public relations
The varied training and experiences of individuals from across an organization prepare them to provide input during the planning process and inform others about what to expect from the other employees in that area.
Testing Alert and Response Procedures
In circumstances where the health and safety of others is on the line, practice makes perfect. It is important for emergency response professionals to not only consistently update their plans, but test them to some degree to ensure their effectiveness. For example, established notification procedures can be tested semi-frequently to ensure that they will be functioning in the event of a real disaster. If they have created a system that uses text or email blasts to inform people of an emergency, disaster preparedness professionals may wish to send a clear and understandable test message to double check that the system is running smoothly.
With Grand Canyon University’s Master Of Science In Leadership with an Emphasis in Homeland Security and Emergency Management, you can become a prepared professional and build a career that aims to help others in times of crises. Our vibrant campus is full of students and working professionals who are all striving to make the world a better, safer place. Take the first step today by clicking on the Request Info button at the top of the website.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.