Preparedness at the Individual Level

Preparedness Starts with You!

Risk is everywhere. From the moment you get in your car to go to work until the moment you swallow your last midnight snack before bed, you encounter different risks of different severities. It is also becoming increasingly obvious that both the number and severity of emergencies and disasters people face every year are drastically increasing with climate change, overpopulation, and pollution. Climate change expert and Vox journalist Umair Irfan writes that the number of disasters has increased by 5 times in the last 50 years. Furthermore, USA Facts shares that “The number of natural disasters that cost over a billion dollars has increased over the last forty years, rising from an average of three per year in the 1980s to 13 per year during the 2010s”.

This increase in disasters causes an increase in available information regarding disaster trends and social habits that can be used to improve emergency management policy, but it can also cause disaster desensitization. When people hear about disasters so frequently, especially when they occur with relatively little time in between, the events lose their excitement, shock, and horror. This can consequently lead to less personal preparedness, as people cannot afford to anticipate every possible hazard or live in a constant state of fear and readiness. Many people accept certain levels of risk in their lives to be effective and efficient members of society, but it is essential to find a balance between accepting some inevitable risks while still having a personal plan in case a hazard is encountered.

So what can you, as an individual without formal emergency management training do to reduce risk and assess the vulnerabilities in your own life? The first thing to do is make a list of all the possible or likely hazards you could face in your day-to-day activities, including car accidents, sickness, weather events, or serious injuries. Then create the possible outcomes and results of those hazards, always thinking worst-case scenario. For example, say a large flood hits your town. Should you evacuate? What items will you bring from your house? Where can you go? What if you lose WIFI or cell reception? Do you have backup food and water? What if someone is injured? Are you near a hospital or do you have emergency medical supplies? These are just a few small examples of things to think about, but there are hundreds of other hazards and actions to think about well in advance of the disaster.

It can be overwhelming to know what to do and expensive to take actions like buying a backup generator or retrofitting your home, but luckily, risk management experts from all over the world have provided many different lists and steps to take to move toward being more prepared.

The following is a list compiled by the international nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity:

This is not a comprehensive list, but one that has some helpful ideas about where to start on your personal preparedness journey.

Being personally prepared is bigger than just you and your family. Your actions have impacts on your entire community, and this is especially obvious financially. Picture this: You fail to retrofit your home, and a massive flood destroys it. Because, in your confidence or lack of preparedness, you did not purchase flood insurance, you are unable to afford to rebuild. You either must take out loans from the bank or government, or you must move altogether, leaving your town to have to foot the bill on the reparations. Now imagine if many people within the same community are in a similar situation, but the town is unable to afford the reparations of all these homes. It is not ideal to leave the damaged homes as they are, because that would be visually polluting, unsafe, and reduce the number of citizens (and therefore taxpayers) who can live there. It becomes a huge, expensive task, all because people failed to be personally prepared.

Life is risky, and the number of risks is only increasing as society develops. However, do not allow the increase in disasters to desensitize you to the importance of vigilance, preparedness, and planning. You want to ensure that you, your family, and your community are resilient and safe when disasters strike, and you can only do that by understanding the possible vulnerabilities you face and taking preemptive measures to reduce their impacts. Preparedness starts with you!

About the Author

Jessica Gray

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