Emergency planning isn’t a topic people like to think about, but it’s a necessary one. For community leaders, looking ahead for the twists and turns of a potential disaster is crucial to preparing guidelines, supplies and residents, and mitigating damage.
For all of the technology and information available, though, some community leaders fail to realize the importance of emergency planning and how to do it in a timely and organized manner. A recent National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) publication through the U.S. Department of Commerce discusses ways community leaders can overcome the hurdles of emergency planning.
Myth #1: “Disasters always seem to miss our community; it’s like we’re immune.”
Clearly, statements like these are asking for trouble. Statistically, nowhere in the United States is immune from the dangers of potential emergency situations, though the type and cause will differ wildly depending on location. A 2016 map of presidential disaster declarations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) prove that no community is immune, and emergency planning is a must, even if an emergency situation hasn’t arisen in decades.
Myth #2: “There’s no support for emergency planning.”
Many times, disaster resiliency and emergency planning comes from grassroots movements either in response to a local crisis or out of concern that something similar could happen closer to home. This myth also purports the idea that emergency planning is not already in place; most communities have plants that can be improved upon through support of local residents.
Myth #3: “There’s no money in the budget to spend on emergency planning.”
In the NIST publication, a six-step process for resiliency includes ways to build upon and improve already-existing emergency planning procedures that often do not cost any money. Further, spending money on preparedness plans will save money by preventing dangerous hazards in the future.
Myth #4: “Our emergency plan will result in a successful recovery.”
Disaster planning focuses on mitigating lost of life, property damage and supply shortage. Even the most adequate and properly executed disaster plan does not automatically mean a successful recovery, if recovery and resiliency efforts have not been taken into account. From rebuilding business, homes and entire communities, a lack of forethought could make the aftermath of a disaster more chaotic than necessary.
Myth #5: “We just updated our FEMA Hazard Mitigation Plan. We are covered.”
The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 requires all state, tribal and local governments to adopt FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plans in order to receive certain non-emergency disaster assistance, however the guidelines set by FEMA cannot begin to cover all the particularities of each individual community. Using the FEMA plans as a guide, communities should identify other areas of need, as well.
Myth #6: “Our departments are already doing their own resilience planning.”
Many communities focus on resilience and emergency planning at the department level, and while it’s important for each area to be aware of the future, a comprehensive plan that involves all the departments and what they bring to the table is needed. Good resiliency planning includes coordination at all levels to ensure success.
Myth #7: “We do not need another plan on the shelf that just collects dust.”
Successful emergency planning doesn’t happen in one afternoon, in one meeting, with a small group of individuals. A plan with the future of a community in mind is one that is constantly updated, and is contributed to from all levels and departments. A good plan is one that recognizes the vulnerabilities of a community when it comes to planning for disasters, and evolves as demographics, technology and other aspects of society evolve, too.