Long ago, when practice for another grueling season was about to begin, Green Bay Packers veterans knew Vince Lombardi would start things off by reminding his team of something too important to forget:
“This, gentlemen,” the great coach would say, “is a football.”
Lombardi understood the importance of the fundamentals. A thorough command of the basics is what allowed his players to win the game time and again. Similarly, when it comes to disaster preparedness, a thorough command of the basics can help you survive and even thrive in the face of nearly any emergency.
So, where to begin?
Start by thinking of the four phases of disaster management. By addressing these stages in your emergency plans, you can rest assured that you have created a solid road map that will lead straight through difficult times and back to the path towards normalcy. So, what’s the magic formula? It’s pretty simple actually.
Phase 1: Preparedness
The time to think about any emergency is before it happens. During the preparedness stage, consider what types of disasters you are most likely to face given your environment and circumstances. Then, take any steps necessary to get ready. Of course, you will need the basics such as food and water set aside, but you should also consider more personalized needs. Do you require a special diet? Do you live in an area that is prone to dangerous heat? Have you traditionally had problems with flooding? How far away are the closest neighbors? The list of important considerations, obviously, could go on and on. Just try to think as comprehensively as you can about what you are likely to face, prepare a list of action items and supplies, and then get busy.
Phase 2: Mitigation
Disasters–big and small–happen. Since you know one is perpetually just around the corner, the next thing to ask is what can you do ahead of time to lessen its impact? For example, do you know your neighbors’ names and cell phone numbers? Are there crucial repairs you need to undertake on your property? Do you have access to a weather radio? A backup solar power system? By taking the time now to minimize a disaster’s potential impact, you can save yourself time, hassle, and grief in the event that one actually strikes. More importantly, you could save a life.
Phase 3: Response
Winston Churchill pointed out that there was only one way to get things back to
“When you’re going through hell,” he famously said, “keep going.”
Now is the time to put all your plans into action. Instead of running about in a panic, try to keep calm and take advantage of the preparations you’ve already made. Stay safe, ride out the immediate danger, and get yourself mentally ready to move on.
Phase 4: Recovery
Disasters themselves are short-lived. A terrible storm can suddenly change your world, but the winds and the rains themselves will probably only touch your life for a few hours. Once the danger is past, your job is simple: work on recovery. Your goal is to get yourself and your neighbors back on their feet as soon as possible. Know your priorities and tackle those first. Understand what you can handle and what you can’t. We all want electricity back on about four seconds after a storm, but honestly, that’s a job for the utility company. Leave it to them and tackle what you can.
So, there you have it: The four phase of emergency preparedness and response. Make sure any plans you put in place cover each one of them, then rest easy. Coach Lombardi would be proud.