Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Simple Step to Make Yourself More Prepared for Disasters

At a disaster resilience conference in DC last week, Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), asked attendees to do one simple thing that would make them more prepared for disasters:

Take out your smartphone and:

Okay, that's two steps, but the point is, just by doing these two things makes you more prepared for disasters.

Craig Fugate, Administrator, FEMA, speaks at a National Academy of Sciences conference on resilience. Image by Flickr user joelogon, used under Creative Commons license.
Preparedness Starts With a Single Step

Of course, there's a lot more that people should do to get prepared. But as Craig points out, when we try to convince people to prepare for disasters, we usually throw too much information at them.

For example, look at right now: It's National Preparedness Month. There's a lot -- a lot -- of useful information flying around, from a lot of different folks, about what you should know and what you should do to prepare for disasters: How to make a disaster plan. What to put in a first-aid kit. Why preparing for a zombie apocalypse makes sense. How to prepare your pets for disasters.

It's all necessary info, but if you're starting from scratch, it can be overwhelming. Forget 30 things; even getting down into the details of the 3 things you should do to prepare (be informed; make a plan; build a kit) can cause you to throw up your hands.

Don't take it from me: According to a 2013 survey, fewer than half of US families even have an emergency plan for use in a disaster.

Preparing People to Prepare

Asking people to bookmark a page and install an app is a small step that's super easy to do. And that's the point: It's a gateway step that, at the very least, will direct them to news and information in case of a disaster.

More importantly, it's a way to get people to buy into the mindset of disaster preparedness. And here's a direct quote from Craig: "Being prepared is more about a state of mind, not a stack of supplies."

Having a prepared state of mind is completely free. And it's the first and most important step in a journey to preparedness.

As how people should define "preparedness," instead of trying to define it with technical terms like "72-hour" or "shelter in place," Craig characterized preparedness as the ability to answer this simple question:

What are you going to do if something happens and you can't get through on the phone?

Now, if you're reading this blog post, you're probably either already a CERT, or want to become one, so you're already more prepared than most of the people you know. But as we continue on through National Preparedness Month and try to help others prepare, remember that the biggest step may be a small first step.

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