Planning Ahead for Disasters

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This is the first in a series of articles on disaster preparedness and how to safeguard your community, save lives and minimize damage

There are three steps in a good disaster plan: planning, prevention and recovery. Knowing what to do in each step can help you reduce injuries and damage to your community. This article discusses the planning segment of disaster preparedness.

Step 1: Learn all you can about the kinds of disasters that could possibly occur in your community - there may be some that you are not aware of. Good resources for this information included your local emergency management office, the local American red Cross chapter or a state-level emergency preparedness agency.

For example, people at these organizations can help you lean whether your community is near a flood plain or a hazardous materials facility. And, did you know that all 50 states and all U.S. territories are vulnerable to earthquakes? In Oregon the risk of an earthquake is considered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be moderate to high. On the Oregon coast even a moderate earthquake adds the additional threat of a tsunami. Are you prepared?

When you have a list of all of the potential problems you might face, you can develop a plan on how to cope with each one. Some parts of each plan will be the same, including Steps 2 and 3 - later in this article.

Depending on the type of problems that might take place in your community, determine whether residents would ever need to evacuate or seek shelter. If the answer is "yes" to either or both questions, prepare an evacuation plan.

Step 2: Develop a master list of telephone numbers that you will need in the case of an emergency. This list should include three major parts:

  • Community resources that would be available.

  • Residents in the community who are participating in the disaster planning and implementation programs.

  • Key employees and others involved with the management or ownership of the community.

You will need both home and work numbers for residents and employees, and business and after-hours numbers for community resources. For key employees, you may also wish to include their cell or mobile phone or pager numbers. All community managers and owners should have this list prominently displayed near every telephone in their homes and offices.

For your convenience, a comprehensive list is included on the next page. You can make copies of it and fill in the blanks, or you can create your own lsit, based on the specifics of you community.

Step 3: Get residents involved in developing and implementing disaster management plans. Emergency management experts agree that this is critical to the success of your program. There will be more about how to work with a Resident's Disaster Planning Committee in future articles.

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