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Learning Center Experience
By Misti Kill, PhD, Kaplan University, School of Health
As we have come to find, the realm
health exists in a variety of forms and locations. One of these locations lies in emergency
management in the form of disaster preparedness. Disaster preparedness is an essential task
for a community to undertake in order to reduce vulnerability. There is an extensive amount of literature on
disaster preparedness and how to best implement it in a community; however, each
community is different, with unique populations, and therefore no one
standardized format of disaster preparedness exists. Because of this, when emergency managers are tasked
with mitigating and preparing a community for emergencies and disasters, there
are a variety of aspects that they need to consider.
Procedures for preparing for a
disaster vary and are “engaged in by various social units: households, businesses and
governmental agencies, communities, supra-community entities such as states and
regions, and entire societies” (Tierney, Lindell & Perry, 2001, p.
28). There are public and private plans,
as well as plans with an economic orientation, or those that are culturally
based; therefore, developing any standardized measures for preparedness becomes
a daunting task.
to Covington and Simpson (2006), the goal of preparedness is to “develop more
resilient communities” (p. 6). In order
to do this, the community first must be able to understand its vulnerabilities,
strengths and weaknesses, and become more efficient
and effective with allocating their resources. The problem is “that
there is not a solid foundation of emergency management theory to guide the
development of disaster preparedness planning” (Covington & Simpson, 2006,
does this leave us? If there is no
agreed upon preparedness procedure that will encompass all communities, how do
we prepare for disasters? The simple
answer to this is that emergency
managers are tasked with first conducing vulnerability assessments to
determine what sort of emergencies and disasters their community is vulnerable
to, and from there, they take steps to ensure the community is prepared.
example, the U.S. Southern Atlantic coast and how it gets hit with tropical
storms and/or hurricanes on a yearly basis.
Emergency managers in these areas obviously are aware that they are
vulnerable to hurricanes and need to ensure that they are prepared. It is important for an emergency manager to
remember that the community is only as prepared as its least prepared
citizen. This means that we need to be
sure that we not only prepare our community infrastructure, but that each
individual household also is aware, has the information it needs, and is prepared.
Due to the
recent catastrophic disasters that have impacted the U.S., citizens are more
aware today than ever before of the impact that disasters can have on our
communities. It is the responsibility of
the emergency manager to ensure that the impact of these disasters is as
minimal as possible. By mitigating and
preparing before a disaster strikes, we ensure that our community has its
defenses up and is ready.
of emergency preparedness is constantly changing and evolving with
society. Those of us working in the
field of emergency management need to be aware of this change and evolve with
it. One way to achieve this is to
further our education and professionalize the field. Obtaining a master’s degree
in public health, with a certification in emergency management, would be a
great way to achieve this goal.
Education is key to disaster
preparedness, not only for those in the community who we are helping to
prepare, but for ourselves as well.
Through education, the field of public health boldly demonstrated that
“human behavior can be changed and diseases eradicated” (International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2011). The opportunities for us to continue this
process and adequately prepare communities for the future are endless. The best way for us to do this is to continue
to professionalize the field through emergency management and public
Covington, J. & Simpson, D. M. (2006). An overview of disaster preparedness
literature: Building blocks
for an applied bay area template. Center for Hazards Research and
Policy Development, University of Louisville, KY.
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. (2011). Public
awareness and public education for disaster risk
reduction: A guide. Geneva: Switzerland.
Tierney, K. J., Lindell, M. K.
& Perry, R. W. (2001). Facing the unexpected: Disaster preparedness
and response in the united states. Washington, D.C.:Joseph Henry Press.
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