After a round of severe storms that spurred up deadly tornadoes hit the Middle Tennessee area in early March 2020, many individuals and families were in shock.
The destruction was widespread and crushing, leading to homes lost and businesses closed.
Although Finding Country is headquartered an hour west of Nashville, Tennessee, we were thankfully not hit by the storm. But we were prepared to help others that were hit.
We loaded up a van of supplies: chainsaws, flashlights, candles, bandaids, gloves, safety goggles, food and water, and more. Driving as far into town as was physically safe, we walked around neighborhoods performing a delicate tango around downed power lines and debris.
More than 40% of Americans aren’t confident in their ability to withstand a natural disaster, according to You.Gov survey data. Fewer women than men say they’re prepared for emergencies. This is concerning when you consider the speed with which some disasters can wield their influence and the longevity of that influence in others.
Especially in the first few minutes, hours, and sometimes days of a disaster, the only relief you can rely on is that which you or your immediate community can provide.
When Outside Sources Fail
Preparation for disaster is vital to surviving the initial blow of an emergency, as well as rebuilding after the threats subside. As more households in a community are prepared, the community itself increases its resilience and decreases its reliance on federal and state government efforts.
In the past, those hit hardest by disaster have been failed by political leaders who are unable to coordinate and dispatch assistance due to the complexity of their system’s hierarchy.
For example, following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, volunteer firefighters were delayed by FEMA for two days of training unrelated to the emergency at hand. It took four days for former president George W. Bush to assign aid packages and deploy National Guard troops to the area.
Between misguided decisions made by officials and lengthy authorization processes, formal and large-scale disaster responses aren’t as reliable as we’d like to think. So, it’s important to take responsibility for our own safety.
4 Most Important Elements of Any Disaster Preparedness Plan
Depending on where you are and what your socioeconomic level is, you will encounter different types of disasters which will impact you at varying degrees. Despite the uniqueness of any given situation, there are 4 elements that are crucial to nail down with any disaster preparedness plan.
There are two ways you need to look at communication in terms of your disaster preparedness plan. First, you want a way to be communicated to in times of emergency. This means you’ll need to sign up for alerts from federal, state, and local organizations through apps and other modes, as well as have alternative notification sources that aren’t reliant on an Internet connection or even landline networks. Use the resources linked in the checklist at the end of this article for setting up a communication infrastructure for alerts and notifications with modern and traditional applications.
Second, you and your family should memorize each other’s phone numbers and the phone numbers of important people or organizations (like schools, businesses, doctors, etc.) in your lives, if you haven’t already. With a phone book at our fingertips through today’s mobile phones, we’ve largely avoided the repetition of dialing numbers into a keypad. For the sake of preparation, commit to memory a few contacts. Ready.gov has a PDF Emergency Plan for Families that can be adapted to individuals and roommates.
Some disasters will require you to shelter in place, while others may encourage you to find a safer spot. Tornadoes and hurricanes are perfect examples of emergencies where you’re home may not be the best place to ride out the threat. At the most basic level, know the conditions you’ll need to meet if you’re staying at home versus seeking out shelter in a less familiar place. For disaster-specific recommendations, consult the Ready.gov website here.
In some instances, you may have to completely avoid danger through escape. An escape plan takes into consideration the type of shelter you’ll need, the locations of those shelters, the different routes you could take to get to your destination, and the means of transportation you’ll need to use to get to safety.
Imagine what you would do if certain roads in your city were blocked off or if gas stations were packed or out of supplies. Walk through as many escape scenarios you can think of. Have places of escape in mind that are near and far. Have alternative routes and transportation methods available. Know whether you could bring all members of your family, including pets, with you to public or private shelters. The places you decide to go may change depending upon whether they’ll accept the family dog or not. Again, Ready.gov lines this out in a much more comprehensive manner than we ever could, so go here for a more detailed approach to structuring your escape plans.
The final core segment of a disaster preparedness plan is materials - the items and tools you’ll want to have in your home or car so you’re ready to put your plan into action at a moment’s notice. From assembling a first aid kit to storing extra food, water, and a supply of sanitation and personal hygiene products, the raw materials you have at your disposal prior to an unexpected event can determine your ultimate response to it. Set yourself up to have several options by preparing for the worst while you’re at your best.
Although Ready.Gov says people should be prepared for 3 days without external assistance, some states with distinct landscape and environmental characteristics like Washington and Oregon propose guidelines to prepare for two weeks of self-reliance following a disaster.
Disaster Preparedness Checklist
Because community resilience starts with individual preparation, spend some time building your plan for when disaster strikes.
In times of emergency, peace of mind will be created by your ability to straddle both the digital and physical worlds.