Doubters may scoff at the idea of preplanning for emergencies, believing it to be an overreaction to potential situations that have yet to occur. Nevertheless, negative events can happen anywhere, anytime, and no one is immune. Federal, state, and local governments know this and encourage people to take steps to plan for emergencies. Being ready and educated to handle a multitude of situations are keys to responding properly and staying safe.
Emergency preparedness refers to steps people can take to be ready for situations or natural disasters that may arise. It is especially important for those with disabilities and senior citizens to have contingency plans and supplies in place to deal with emergencies that may occur in and around where they live. Recently, some states in the south are dealing with the aftermath of violent storms that passed through. And, following a chemical spill into the Delaware River tributary, parts of the city of Philadelphia and some surrounding suburbs faced concerns over the safety of their drinking water. These scary situations unfolded in real-time. Being prepared can reduce confusion, fear, and concerns that result from various types of disasters. Knowing what to do can keep people safe and supports quicker recovery. Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, breaks down national emergency preparedness into five “mission areas” to diminish risks associated with natural disasters, diseases, pandemics, chemical spills, other man-made disasters, and terrorist and cyber-attacks. Let’s take a quick look:
- Prevention: This refers to preventing, avoiding, or stopping an imminent, threatening, or actual act of terrorism. Cybersecurity, to secure electronic communications systems and keep them free from potential damage, is an example of prevention.
- Protection: This means shielding people and assets from great threats and hazards to let life thrive. Strengthening the security and resilience of the food supply chain is an example of protection.
- Mitigation: This reduces the loss of life and property by lessening the impact of future disasters. An example is identifying threats and hazards in a geographical area to reduce the vulnerability of people who live there.
- Response: This means to act quickly to protect lives, property, and the environment. It also includes meeting basic human needs following a catastrophic event. Providing critical transportation during an evacuation falls under response.
- Recovery: This refers to timely restoration. It includes the strengthening and revitalizing of infrastructure, focusing on housing and a sustainable economy, and meeting health, social, cultural, historic, and environmental needs following a catastrophe. Implementing housing solutions in an emergency is an example of recovery.
Being prepared for potential emergencies, having a plan, and knowing how to act upon it can make all the difference in an emergency, allowing you to troubleshoot situations and take life-saving action when needed. FEMA offers the following example of effective emergency preparedness in action. “A Midwestern city, for example, may determine it is at high risk for a catastrophic tornado. As a result, the city could set a target to have a certain number of shelters in place.” Folks can similarly create their own emergency plans by first evaluating their vulnerability to specific disasters. A person living in a hurricane zone will benefit from an evacuation plan. Folks living in tornado alley can stay informed via weather alerts and establish a safe place to shelter in a storm. Persons living in flood zones should seek to safeguard important documents from water and heed warnings from local officials. Folks living under the threat of wildfires should keep a ready-to-go bag by the door and understand safe evacuation routes. For those who risk being trapped at home due to inclement weather, stock the pantry ahead with nutritious shelf-stable food and water. It’s also important to have a secondary heat source, medications, batteries, and other survival-related supplies available. Or head to an established safer location ahead of the storm. Disasters and emergencies can undoubtedly disrupt lives. Therefore, it’s best to prepare for emergencies to reduce vulnerability.