By David Henry,
While there are other assumptions that affect the final outcome of disaster and emergency management the three identified are among the most common. These assumptions can and should be combated by both the government and the public.
Assumption #1 can be combated by simply adopting the philosophy of "Plan for the worst and hope for the best". Planning efforts should be "all hazards" in nature and should address the worst case scenario and have the ability to scale down to the smallest emergency.
The public should also be well versed in the potential hazards that could affect their area. Awareness is one of the most important tools to protect the public in disasters. Emergency management professionals should take the time and effort to educate the public and the public should take some of the burden off emergency managers by being willing to be educated and in some cases by educating themselves.
The public is responsible for combating Assumption #2. Members of the public must understand that in times of disaster local emergency response resources will most certainly be overwhelmed. The most organized State and Federal responses may take hours or even days to be 100% effective. As a result members of the general public must be prepared to take care of themselves for a period of time. This means organizing a plan and insuring that resources are in place to execute the plan. These resources may include food and water supplies, alternate sources of shelter and heat and communications plans.
Communities can also consider starting a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Local emergency management agencies can provide information and training to develop a team of citizens that can fill in the time gap between disaster striking and professional emergency resources arriving.
Lastly, combating Assumption #3 must begin at the local emergency management level and end at the Federal level. Local emergency managers must insure that all agencies are clear on their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency/disaster. Agencies must be aware of their performance limitations and insure that plans, mutual aid agreements and assistance compacts are in place to insure that outsider resources can be provided to fill in the void. Likewise, local emergency management must fully understand the State and Federal governments' roles and be prepared to work within the existing bureaucracies to meet the needs of the public.
The public must also take the initiative to become familiar with the roles and responsibilities of public safety agencies and themselves in the midst of disaster. Local emergency management agencies must take a lead role in insuring that information is available to the public.
Assumptions are deadly to emergency management. They lead to confusion and the potential unnecessary loss of life or property. Hurricane Assumption can be mitigated against and the resultant damages caused by assumptions can be limited.
Captain David Henry, BS, NREMT-P, Erlanger, Life Force Communications can be reached at:
Website Survey Results