Disaster Preparedness Is a Community Effort

It is during a disaster that we learn the true effectiveness of all of our disaster preparations or lack thereof. In the absence of preparedness, most communities do find a way to recover when an emergency situation strikes, but the recovery is that much easier if the protocols of what to do in the face of a crisis are decided beforehand.

Another area that could be found lacking is in the arena of long-term recovery. Sure most towns and communities have some kind of plan in place for what to do within the first three days following a disaster situation, but what about a month down the road, a year, 10 years? There are those in New Orleans still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina seven years removed from the disaster.

When disaster strikes, most likely large organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are quick on the heels to provide aid to facilitate a speedy recovery, but these organizations are not a long-term solution. Once the initial response has been handled, more often than not these organizations pack up and move to the next disaster. And while they do maintain a presence, it is the local organizations — the churches, libraries, and other local aid organizations — that have the most impact on long-term recovery.

On the local level, emergency responders and planners need to utilize local resources. Untrained local volunteers are one such commodity that are typically turned away from larger organizations, but they represent vital help that can be effectively utilized where it is needed most, in their respective communities. Unsolicited donations are also typically turned away, and unless local emergency planners are mindful of these resources, they can be lost and go to waste.

What it all boils down to is that the impetus falls to the community and community leaders to plan for the long-term recovery process of the community itself. Disaster preparedness leaders also must be mindful of what resources are available and to use those resources to maximum effect. They also need to realize, that yes, initially aid should be available, but that eventually, as the situation recedes from the public’s eye, the responsibility for a full recovery will fall mostly on those in the area suffering from the disaster.

For more information about disaster preparedness and recovery, visit: http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/02/opinion/oneill-disaster-recovery/index.html, https://recovers.org/, http://www.ted.com/, and http://www.ted.com/talks/caitria_and_morgan_o_neill_how_to_step_up_in_the_face_of_disaster.html