• CPS - Misti Kill

    By Misti Kill, PhD, Kaplan University, School of Health Sciences  

    As we have come to find, the realm of public 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.

    According 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, p. 3).   

    So where 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. 

    Take, for 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.

    he concept 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 health education



    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.

    International 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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