AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

Disaster Plans and Emergency Management for Communities

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

A recent article in the Caribbean publication Searchlight announced that “twelve communities on the Island of St. Vincent would be volcano-ready by 2019.” The article briefly explained that the notion of being “volcano-ready” includes having volcanologists and CERT team volunteers  prepared with the right equipment and training to handle such a disaster. In small communities, any emergency preparedness measures are particularly important for how they will ultimately save lives during a disaster. While the idea of volcanologists and volunteers creating a system that prepares individuals for a volcanic eruption is a good one, emergency management experts have long insisted that there are many facets to making sure a community is disaster-ready.

The efforts to create a volcano-ready community are certainly well-intentioned, but the measures cited in the Searchlight article would not be sufficient to handle large-scale emergencies if Saint Vincent ever faced such a disaster. Unfortunately, the article does not say what emergency preparedness measures St. Vincent currently has in place or how the article’s ideas would improve life on the island.

Proper Emergency Management Involves Complicated Events

Emergency management is complicated. To effectively manage small-scale to large-scale emergencies, a lot of collaborative manpower and a variety of different agencies, nonprofits and international relief organizations will need to work together.

More important, emergency management doesn’t involve a quick fix of bringing in a few volunteers to handle the disaster. Emergencies demand so many resources and manpower that it often takes years to restore a community to what it was before a disaster.

Hurricane Michael’s devastation of the Florida Panhandle earlier this week is one example. It will take many months, if not years, for communities like Mexico Beach and Panama City to return to normal.

Disasters Should Be All-Hazard Oriented

Getting a community to be volcano-ready is important, but community training should really use the all-hazards approach. This plan will help people working during an emergency to maintain the attitude that “we can handle anything that comes our way.”

St. Vincent will certainly experience other disasters besides volcano eruptions. It is essential for volunteers who help in such emergencies to be trained to handle a variety of different scenarios.

Collaboration Is Key

Ultimately, a variety of different factors must go into effective preparation for a large-scale emergency. For St. Vincent to be truly volcano-ready, there needs to be serious collaboration among several different agencies that will come together to properly manage future disasters.

To accomplish this goal, effective plans must be in place. Also, there needs to be training on a regular basis to quickly find gaps in any emergency management plans.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Secretary & Chair of the TEMS Committee with the International Public Safety Association and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. Prior to teaching, she worked for a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. Passionate about the policy issues surrounding emergency management and emergency medical services, Allison often researches, writes and advocates about these issues. Allison is an emergency medical technician and holds four master’s degrees.

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