One thing everyone can learn about life is to expect the unexpected. How well the lesson is learned is reflected in the way that person installs the safety net in their life and how that is installed in every organization that he or she will build or become a part of. The 9/11 tragedy, hurricane Katrina, and the Japan earthquake of March 2011 are just some examples of the catastrophic episodes that we can prepare for. While we pray natural and man-made calamities that damage lives and properties are to never happen, yet they still do. Most often they simply cannot be prevented despite our best efforts. Thus, man’s best defense is emergency preparedness.
What is emergency preparedness in a practical and technical sense?
Emergency preparedness is the process that intends to ensure that a person/family, an organization or a nation is in a position of readiness to manage not the disaster but its effects on the affected population. The readiness tempers the loss of life and damages to property. It identifies the systems that must deliver services to deliver rescue, first-aid, and relief goods. It must also be ready to facilitate the rehabilitation of infrastructures, business, agriculture and homes to assist the affected families and victims. The level of emergency preparedness can be measured by the speed by which all these services can be delivered after the disaster has occurred.
On a personal level, emergency preparedness can be compared to a life jacket that keeps one afloat during bad times. It is like a survival kit that can keep one eating and drinking within a definite period of time. This is the motivation of those who take out insurances for health, life, car, homes, etc. It is the reason why people save their money in the banks or invest in stocks. This is done because everyone knows that there are no guarantees in life; even an executive can get sick or have an accident at a time when there are kids in college. Even stable businesses can suffer from inflation. Natural calamities can happen – fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes – these can change life’s existence in an instant.
What is emergency preparedness in the perspective of governments and nations? Every nation and government is expected to lay down the foundation of emergency preparedness to be able to marshal resources to manage the effects, deliver the priority services to those who need them and initiate rehabilitation to make communities functional again.
To ensure preparedness, ‘disaster prevention’ is reinforced or measures are taken to detect, contain and preclude or predict calamities. This might mean funding projects to improve the transmission and relaying of communication from sources to a network of systems. This can entail purchasing of state-of-the-art equipment to forecast weather conditions or state-of-the-art ambulance and air ambulance that contain advance life support systems. Emergency preparedness must also be ready to put in place ‘disaster recovery’ systems in order to restore the functionality of the community, state or nation. It must have the necessary logistics, financial and other resources to prop victims or segment of society back on its feet.
To efficiently and systematically undertake activities related to emergency preparedness, it is always good to have an emergency preparedness plan. This is written for the purpose of outlining an action plan that can define the roles of the different participating agencies in a wide scale implementation. It can contain guidelines for specific disasters and to avoid overlapping of functions, confusion and misunderstanding.
Human experiences taught us that calamities and other unforeseen or unwanted events can take place anytime. Being prepared for any eventuality is something that we all have learned the hard way. Despite the many bitter experiences that humans have gone through, there were many lessons learned along the way. It is during these trying times of disasters that the human spirit rose above the pain as one, stronger and selfless. This is what is emergency preparedness all about.