Updated: Apr 14, 2021
The best time to plan for the next disaster is on the heels of the last one. Working from a place of recent experience, you are best equipped to assess your current levels of preparedness and to identify things you can improve upon for next time. We have all endured the impacts of COVID-19 for just about a year, and while it's not "over," advances in vaccines and declines in fatalities/hospitalizations are allowing a little more normalcy back into our lives. So, as you start to reflect on the past year, what lessons can you learn?
From industry to individual
In the emergency management world, we conduct what we call "after-actions." After an incident, we take stock of what went well and what didn't. From this assessment, we build out a plan to address any deficiencies to ensure we are better prepared next time. You can employ a similar process for yourself, your family, or your household.
Where to begin
Start here with my First Three Steps for post-disaster personal preparedness. For many of us, the pandemic is not the only emergency/disaster we lived through over the past year. If you have experienced other emergencies like natural disasters, power outages, home flooding, etc. take those experiences into account as well.
What to look for
Obviously, because of the unique nature of the pandemic, there are lessons we have learned that may not seem applicable to other disasters but don't dismiss them outright. The fact is that things that helped you and your family endure this experience may translate into something that could be useful in any type of emergency. You want to take stock, comprehensively, of everything you and your household relied upon to get through the pandemic and other recent disasters. From an emergency management perspective, consider things like supplies, shelter, and communications. From a holistic well-being perspective, consider what resources, activities, programs, people, and/or equipment were essential to you and your family making it through the last year.
As you are taking note of the things that worked well for you and your family, make sure to also consider:
The things that didn't go well and/or could be improved;
The things/supplies/capabilities you needed that you didn't have;
The contacts and information that you needed but didn't have; and
The resources and supplies that you used, which might need to be restocked, restored or refilled.
Now that you have taken a good hard look backward, it's time to look ahead and identify the specific steps you need to take to address the deficiencies, additions, or changes necessary to make you and your family more prepared for next time. Develop an approach to address the specific action steps necessary, identify a timeline for each step, and spread the responsibility out across the members of your family or household. Making this a family affair will not only make it more likely that things will it will make individual and family resilience a priority for everyone (or at least something everyone is aware of).
Plan to plan
With the plethora of things each of us juggle on a daily basis, between work, our families, pets, communities, etc. all of us have experienced firsthand the value of a plan. For me personally, the old adage "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" gains relevance every day. The thing is, the planning we usually do is focused on things we know are going to happen or that we know we have to do. Emergency planning presents a unique challenge because it typically requires us to imagine a hypothetical scenario, and start planning from there...unless, of course, we have just lived through that 'hypothetical' scenario. This is why post-disaster emergency planning can be so effective.
The weeks and months following a disaster are also the time period that you may be most likely to engage the attention of your family members or housemates. As humans, our memories are fairly short, we have to do everything we can to capture our lessons and ensure we actually learn from them for next time. So, get moving.
The good news is you are not alone in this undertaking. I am here to support you every step of the way. You can access my planning resources right here. Once you have developed your plan and procured the supplies necessary to implement it, practice will be the next step. Stay tuned for amazing tools to help you run your very own emergency preparedness exercises at home.