Here are some suggestions for dealing with emergency disasters. Many of these suggestions come from my personal experience; however here are some websites that also provide tips for dealing with disasters.
Disaster management is divided into five parts: planning, preparation, mitigation, response, and recovery. The aforementioned websites provide guidelines for each step. Here are some additional suggestions.
This is nothing more than thinking of what to do when something happens. The easiest way is to think of how to answer the following questions.
What will I do in case of a disaster?
What will I need to do to recover from a disaster?
What can I do to mitigate a disaster?
Where will I go in event of a disaster?
Where will I meet others in my family?
How will I contact others in my family?
How will I get the information I need to recover from a disaster?
One very important thing to remember is there are many kinds of disasters. The most common is a house fire. Another common disaster is an automobile accident or mishap. Then there are common local disasters such as hurricanes and tornados. There are also commercial disasters such as a hazardous material spill. Then there others such as blizzards or health crises like COVID-19. One plan will not cover them all, but it does help to have plans for the ones you are most likely to encounter.
This is where people take action to mitigate or recover from a disaster. The aforementioned websites have plenty of ideas on how to prepare for dealing with disasters. Be sure to modify these ideas to fit your personal lifestyle. Please note that each different kind of disaster will require different steps to prepare for it. Here are some basics.
Designate specific place to meet in case of a disaster. One for outside the home, one in the neighborhood, and one at a location within the city. For example, your family may meet in front of the house by the mailbox, at the nearest street corner, and at a grocery store in a major shopping center. Depending on the disaster and where family members are at the time it strikes, will determine where to meet. If the there is a fire, you want the family to leave the house and meet either at the mailbox or the street corner. However, if there is a tornado during working hours, then meeting at a shopping center after is declared all clear may be a better option.
Have a way to communicate with family members, both locally and with those far away. During an earthquake in Japan, people were unable to call each other on cell phones; but they could send text messages. Facebook and other social media platforms are good for letting others far away to know one’s situation.
Prepare an emergency kit. This is what one needs to take with the person when there is a disaster requiring one to leave the area. Remember the pets! Once again, the aforementioned websites have directions for making emergency kits.
Mitigation is taking actions to lessen the impact of a disaster. For example, having smoke detectors helps prevent loss of life in cases of house fires. Having flares and reflectors helps in cases of traffic accidents.
The key to mitigation is focusing on the specific type of disaster. For hurricanes and tornados, securing loose items in the yard is something that needs to get done, but has no importance when dealing with a hazardous material spill. Focus on how to lessen the dangers of specific disasters and ways to make it easier to recover from them.
While planning, preparation, and mitigation happen before a disaster; response and recovery take place after. Response is the immediate action one takes to save lives and deal with a disaster.
The number one rule of response is take care of yourself first. You are no help if you become a victim.
Life-saving measures take precedent over everything.
The second priority is mitigating the disaster. Think about a forest fire. Firefighters first try to contain the fire, then put it out. In the cases of hazardous materials spills, hazmat techs set up a perimeter to keep others out of danger before going in to rescue victims of the spill.
The final priority is to deal with and end the disaster; put out the fire, clean up the spill, etc.
This is where individuals return to a NEW normal for them. After a disaster, regardless of what it is or the magnitude, people’s lives will change to a new normal.
IMPORTANT NOTE – You are not alone!!!! When a disaster strikes, friends, family, coworkers, and others are there to help you. Don’t be afraid or timid about asking for help. People do and will help you. If the individual can’t provide assistance, that person often knows where to go to get the assistance you need.
There are different levels of recovery response. The first, most important, the one requiring the greatest degree of effort is the individual. All emergency disaster agencies state individuals need emergency supplies to last at least three days. The second level is local, usually county first responders (fire fighters, police officers, public utilities, etc.). But these responders deal with calls as they come in and on level of severity. They are overwhelmed during the first days of disaster recovery. While there are many local organizations such as churches and veterans groups that begin to organize; their ability to provide assistance is limited. However, they are a good source of sustained assistance, such as food banks. Next comes the state, usually with additional resources for cleanup and restoring public services. Also during this stage, non-government agencies such as the Red Cross and Catholic Charities begin to arrive, to provide assistance, and set up shelters. The final level is federal assistance, often FEMA and other federal agencies arrive to provide assistance and guidance for federal programs.
Important note – all organizations and agencies, including state and federal agencies, report to the county Emergency Management Agency. Local agencies are in charge because they know best what needs to be done.
SECOND NOTE: With the Coronavirus, FEMA and other emergency management agencies are recommending those who shelter in place should have enough food, water, and supplies for at least two weeks. Even those evacuating because of natural disasters should consider bringing enough for more than three days. And bring masks with them!