The emergency plans are all on paper, the guidelines are all in place, and the practice drills have all been completed with flying colors. You’re ready for whatever disaster comes your way – or are you? Unfortunately, no one really knows until disaster actually hits.
In the last 15 months several towns in Alabama and surrounding states have come face-to-face with various disasters such as a tornado, a hurricane, and a horrific school bus accident. Each event left devastating marks on communities, businesses, and families. Though no community ever wants a major disaster to hit home, those emergency plans are all right there on paper for a reason.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has five national preparedness guidelines for communities to adhere to in the wake of a disaster. They are preparedness, prevention, protection, response, and recovery. How do you restore security, power, and calm to a neighborhood or school destroyed by a tornado? How do you provide critical healthcare, emergency services, or life-saving measures when your hospital has been flooded and damaged? How do you calm, treat and transport 44 fifth graders whose bus has just flipped over on the interstate?
Preparedness is a continuing learning process requiring coordination among organizations at all levels. Community leaders and response personnel from these communities highlight best practices of how they responded to their disaster and how they have since updated their plans based on lessons learned. Each presenter illustrates how they have used the DHS preparedness guidelines to facilitate their response to their respective disasters. They explore what worked, what didn’t, what has changed, but perhaps more importantly, what can you learn and take back with you to improve your community’s own emergency preparedness plan?
The On Demand Program, Bridge the Gap: Community Surge and Resiliency, was broadcast on July 24, 2008, and is an outstanding resource with information covering the Enterprise and Prattville tornados, Hurricane Katrina, the Springfield bus crash, and much more.
The Bridge the Gap Conference Slides and Videos are valuable resources to assist in preparedness and response best practices.