Community disaster preparedness is a scary sounding phrase. However, we live in frightening times. Political climates around the world are growing tenser each day. Diplomacy seems to be a thing of the past, at least for America. Violent weather events are climbing worldwide each year. The outlook for avoiding disaster is growing bleak in every community. Are you prepared if disaster struck your state? What about the rest of your city? Your neighborhood? Your street?
No one likes to think about the worst that could happen if their safe corner of the world were to be hit by a natural disaster or a human-made catastrophe. The fact is, though, that you’re more likely to survive if you have a community disaster preparedness plan than you are if you’re caught unsuspectingly. The same goes for your neighbors. Together, you could have a real chance at not only surviving but protecting those among you who aren’t capable of protecting themselves. Basically, a community disaster preparedness plan can not only give you and your neighbors peace of mind, but it can also tip the odds in your favor.
Hazard Risk Assessment For Community Disaster Preparedness Plan
First, when developing a community preparedness plan, you’ll want to asses the potential hazards for your area. Research if necessary to reveal which types of natural disasters and severe weather events occur most often in your location. This will help to narrow down the conditions you and your community may need to prepare for. Flooding won’t require the same action plan as, say, wildfires. Decide which type of disaster your community is likely to face, so you know exactly what you need to prepare for.
Additionally, natural disasters aren’t the only threat to you and your community. Even if you’re lucky enough to live in an area that is not prone to dangerous weather events, you could still be susceptible to human-made disaster. But also, make sure to consider all the possible types of catastrophe before assuming that you don’t have anything to worry about in your community.
Natural hazards are any act of nature. Severe weather events make up the majority of natural hazards for most areas. These can include tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, wildfires, flooding, avalanches, earthquakes, landslides, drought, and extreme freezing or snowfall. An often overlooked natural hazard is an outbreak of disease. Unfortunately, epidemics can catch communities off guard and cause panic and mayhem. Especially at risk in disease outbreaks are children and the elderly, who tend to suffer complications and death when ill more often than adults and teens.
Accidental human hazards
Realistically, sometimes even the most advanced human-created technologies fail. Dams break. Oil or other hazardous materials spill into the environment. Bridges and buildings collapse. Power fails. Trains derail. Mines collapse. Airplanes crash. Sadly, these unlucky events can happen in any community, but some are at higher risk than others. If you live near an oil refinery, a mine, or any business that regularly uses dangerous chemicals, you are especially at risk for accidental human hazards.
Intentional human hazards
Finally, possibly the most frightening of all potential disasters are intentional human hazards. In today’s world, it feels like nuclear war may break out at the drop of a Tweet. Consequently, if you live in a highly populated area, it’s more likely that your community will be targeted by an enemy attack. These attacks may be nuclear, biological, or chemical. Unfortunately, other intentional human hazards becoming more common include mass shootings in schools, workplaces, and at public events, and cyber attacks. Each of these human-designed hazards will require a different plan for your community to be prepared to respond effectively.
Community Health and Health Resources
Before making a plan, you need to asses the health of your community as a whole. Chances are if you live in a retirement community you will have a lot more potential health problems to deal with than you would if you lived in a small college town. How many senior citizens live in your community? How many children? Babies? Pregnant women? Pay attention to the age range of people who tend to move into your neighborhood. This will give you a realistic idea of how concerned you need to be about general health in the case of a disaster hitting your area.
Once you have an idea of the health level of your community at large, gather information about health resources. Does your community have a hospital? Is one of your neighbors a doctor? Where would be able to find medical assistance if someone in your group was injured or became ill? You will want to have these questions answered before disaster strikes, so you don’t find yourself running around trying to find help when it may already be too late.
Create a Team
So far, you’ve got a basic idea of what types of disasters your community needs to prepare for. You then assessed your community’s overall health and health resources. Now, it’s time to get other community members on board. Think about those people closest to you in our community. Select a small group of trustworthy individuals and invite them to join you on their community’s disaster preparedness team.
Now that you’ve assembled the core members of your community preparedness team, it’s time to assign roles. There is no specific way to divide responsibility among your team. It is essential to make sure that someone is responsible for overseeing supplies, someone is responsible for arranging assistance for the elderly and children, and someone is responsible for communication. It is wise to consider setting up communication hubs with assigned people in other areas. That way if local phone lines become useless, members of your community can check in and update their status to a trusted individual.
Furthermore, once a core community disaster preparedness team has been formed, and fundamental roles have been assigned, it’s time to create some goals. If you never put your plan into action, it means nothing. It’s not necessary to wait for a disaster before you can begin to put your plan into action. By this point, you’ve assessed your community’s hazard risks, community health, and community health resources. You’ve shared this information with your core team, and assigned a role to each member. Now, it’s time to act on your assessments.
Additionally, approach your local businesses and speak to them about disaster preparedness. You’ll want to ask these businesses to be a part of the community disaster preparedness plan. Many businesses are eager to open their doors for shelter for the displaced, or may be able to donate supplies. Set a goal of getting a certain amount of businesses involved, shoot for a certain level of community involvedness, and then it’s time to get the rest of the neighborhood on board.
Equally important, after you assemble your team, have set your initial goals and spoken to businesses, it’s time to get everyone involved in your community disaster preparedness plan. Put up flyers, set up a website, or even host an event. Explain to everyone in the community who will listen how vital disaster preparedness is. Educate them on the types of hazards possible in your community and the effects they could have on people, animals, and the environment. Give out checklists for people to make their own disaster preparedness kits. Let everyone know who is in charge of supplies, who is responsible for those who need extra assistance, and who is assigned to communication. This way they know who to look for if a disaster does hit.
It’s easy to make a plan, write it down, share it, and then forget about it. Practicing is a critical step in the planning. Plan safety drills at least once per year for your community. Then, treat these drill as if they were real disasters. Afterward, assess which areas of preparedness your community showed strength in, and which areas need more work. Share these results to help everyone prepare for the next drill, and for any possible disaster before then.
Pay it Forward
Consider approaching surrounding communities, once you get to the point where you feel that your community has a robust disaster preparedness plan that is being executed well in drills. Keep in mind, smaller communities will need to come together to survive if a large catastrophe hits. Next, share the success you’ve had in your neighborhood, and tell them how you did it. Finally, encourage them to do the same in their community, and offer to help if you can. Everyone will benefit from preparedness in the end.
Disaster can strike anywhere, any time. You don’t want your community caught off guard. Putting a community disaster preparedness plan into place takes a lot of time and effort. But, avoiding tragedy by keeping yourself, your family and your neighbors safe is surely worth it.