Building a Culture of Preparedness
Claire Collins, IBTS Development Manager of Local Government Solutions, has more than two decades of local government management experience in Virginia as a county administrator, city manager, assistant to county manager and first public affairs/legislative liaison. Below, Collins provides guidance for local government leaders and stakeholders on how best to engage community members in disaster preparedness and resilience initiatives:
How prepared are we, our families, our friends, and our communities before any natural or manmade disaster happens? Do your citizens have a plan to implement when a disaster occurs? These are questions I ask myself every time I hear about a potential threat of a severe storm or natural disaster that might have a catastrophic impact on my community. Then, I think about how to help those in need trying to recover from devastation and how to make it less devastating for the future.
It’s human nature in time of need to think that somebody is going to come to your rescue. Often with natural disasters we rely on FEMA and other federal sources to rescue us, however these resources cannot always provide the assistance we need. When this happens, we search for remedies to recover and get back to living pre-disaster; we go about living the best we can. Natural disasters, however, present a critical opportunity for us to ask ourselves and our communities how we can be change agents to build back stronger and create more fortified living situations and communities.
Educating Your Community in Disaster Preparedness
To help our communities take a more proactive, forward-thinking mindset towards disaster preparedness and recovery, local government leaders can engage their citizens in communitywide planning and resilience exercises. Teach your young community members, in particular, to be the messengers of a future with a safe, secure, and disaster-free built environment.
Educating all members of your community not only energizes individuals to be prepared for a disaster, but it also creates a ripple effect – those individuals encourage their neighbors, friends, and families in the community, and in other communities, to have a plan. Eventually, new habits form and result in disaster planning initiatives taking place each day in the classroom, at work, in homes, city halls, and throughout the country.
Once your community understands the importance of disaster preparedness, they have the platform to take their preparedness efforts one step further to think not just about how they can be prepared, but how they can take actions to mitigate the impacts of disasters altogether. Your community members will no longer be complacent with rebuilding to the status quo – they will demand changes that make their homes and their communities stronger and more resilient to disasters of all types.
The platform for creating a culture of preparedness is growing daily and can be the force for mission-designed solutions and services in building resilient communities to counteract the devastating impact of disasters.
You, your families, friends, neighbors, and communities are too precious not to be prepared for disaster. Think about what you can do as an individual, and be the change agent that asks questions and prioritizes disaster preparedness both at home and within your community. The more you do to prepare and be an example to others, the more we all will take action to be prepared. We can do this!
Check out the OnHAND tips on building community disaster awareness for successful plan activation to find out the steps your local government can take to build a proactive, future-thinking citizenry.