Are You Ready? Emergency and Disaster Planning Tips

Article excerpt

It's probably easy to remember where you were and what you were doing last Sept. 11. America had been shaken, violently, and was still reeling when, the next month, the biological agent anthrax was introduced in the U.S. postal system. What was next? When would it end?

As we learned at this time of great uncertainty and rapidly unfolding events, there are no perfect emergency and disaster plans. For starters, as we learned last fall, it's impossible to predict and prepare for every emergency that might occur. But with a well-constructed emergency and disaster plan in place, a more expeditious and organized response can reduce injuries, save lives and minimize property losses. Because parks and recreation agencies are so woven into the fabric of American life, it's crucial that you have a well thought-out and practiced plan. If you think you're set in this regard because you have a program written out on a few sheets of paper, you're wrong.

PLANNING YOUR PLAN

The broad categories for emergency and disaster plan development include recognition, preparation, response, recovery and restoration. Disaster and catastrophic loss-prevention efforts should be the basis for every emergency and disaster plan, but with the understanding that that prevention techniques aren't always successful. When you being to develop your plan, or when you review and update your existing plan, start by asking some basic questions, such as:

* What is it we do?

* Who do we do it for?

* What are our potential exposures?

* What is the response time for emergency workers at our location?

* If emergency workers aren't available during a crisis, what must we be prepared to handle?

It helps to ask these questions while thinking about a few scenarios. For example, consider that a major storm has resulted in hundreds of injuries in your community. You're isolated by poor weather conditions, highways have been declared closed and your facility can't depend on immediate outside support. Operate on the assumption that if something can go wrong, it will. Think through what you'll need to do in each phase for this and other types of emergencies and disasters.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

The most important aspect of an emergency and disaster plan is your ability to communicate. Without communication, your efforts to seek assistance, organize, mobilize, coordinate efforts and delegate assignments become impossible. Mobile phones have taken a greater role in emergency and disaster planning, but as we learned on Sept. 11, it's wise not to over-rely on them. Hand-held portable radios remain an integral tool for coordinating internal functions. Battery back-up systems for radio control rooms and relay centers are crucial in times of disaster. Power-assisted megaphones can also play an important role in moving large numbers of people and transmitting vital safety instructions when public address systems aren't available or have been rendered inoperable. The bottom line is that you can't manage a disaster without the ability to communicate internally and externally.

CROWD MANAGEMENT

There's a critical difference between crowd management and crowd control. …