Since 1998, DomPrep authors and readers have touted the need to prepare for disasters. There is a consensus among preparedness, response, and resilience professionals that forethought is the key to community resilience following a disaster. The desire to prepare is demonstrated through action: innumerable studies and best practices have been written, trainings and exercises have been conducted, and equipment purchases have been made. However, planning documents, practice scenarios, and more resources are not enough. Preparedness needs to be a mindset that stakeholders embrace daily.
COVID-19 is a good example. Experts discussed the scenario of a global pandemic, they conducted tabletop and full-scale exercises using this scenario, and yet many organizations and government agencies still were unprepared when faced with the actual event. Going through the motions in a mock scenario may not be enough to ensure rapid response under real-life conditions. Red teaming, which involves out-of-the-box thinking, is one way to maintain a preparedness mindset. It is about more than creating scenarios and participating in exercises. It is about being ready to act and implement plans as soon as they are needed.
Situational awareness, using technology and coordination between key stakeholder groups, is also a critical component for creating the right mindset. Telecommunications and previously developed relationships can ensure that limited resources are available and positioned where needed. However, without regular interpersonal communications and maintaining a strong preparedness focus, valuable time may lost in responding to a crisis. Volunteer and community organizations can help fill this gap and strengthen preparedness efforts, but only if they are fully incorporated into the process.
Preparing for a disaster is not the same as being prepared for a disaster. Athletes are told to practice like they play. When it comes to disasters, though, stakeholders may need a reminder that the opposite is also true: “play like you practiced.” Preparedness needs to be engrained. It is not about remembering what to do in a specific scenario but about taking a practiced scenario and adapting the decisions and responses to the real-life factors and components that may or may not have been previously addressed. This edition of the DomPrep Journal encourages readers to keep preparedness on the tops of their minds.
Catherine L. Feinman
Catherine L. Feinman, M.A., joined Domestic Preparedness in January 2010. She has more than 30 years of publishing experience and currently serves as editor of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, DomesticPreparedness.com, and the DPJ Weekly Brief, and works with writers and other contributors to build and create new content that is relevant to the emergency preparedness, response, and recovery communities. She received a bachelor’s degree in international business from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management from American Military University.