One common sentiment that can hold people back from thinking outside the box is, “That’s how it’s always been done.” Lessons learned and best practices are critical components of disaster preparedness efforts. However, no matter how many lessons are learned and best practices are discovered, the pursuit for new lessons and even better practices should never end. In this January 2022 edition of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, a new year begins with four new ways of looking at disaster preparedness.
First, during a crisis, each stakeholder agency has established roles to play. When the scenarios and key players change, the roles may need to adapt with them. In addition, modern natural and human-caused disasters are growing in complexity and frequently span jurisdictions and disciplines. For example, COVID-19 on the surface is a public health crisis but, as demonstrated over the past two years, needs to be addressed by entire communities not just public health agencies. This and other large-scale events have elevated some emergency management agencies to lead multiorganizational responses and even to become standalone agencies within their states.
Second, on the academic side, many studies have been conducted, new methods and frameworks have been developed, and knowledge, skills, and abilities have been transferred. The next steps that sometimes are skipped are testing and implementation. In Rhode Island, the opportunity to test a new Predictable Surge framework proved helpful to the Providence Emergency Management Agency. Examples like this provide opportunities to find new ways to manage future problems.
Third, in the field, managing a crisis can become almost routine. For example, outbreaks of avian influenza in various parts of the world have provided many real-world lessons on how to dispose of large quantities of animal carcasses via composting methods. Researchers understand, though, that many factors (e.g., size of each animal, quantity of carcasses) must be taken into account to find the safest disposal method for each circumstance. As such, research projects are actively looking for new ways to address new and emerging threats.
Fourth, sometimes creating a new model requires a team effort across public and private organizations. Decisions made before or during a crisis can lead to more lives either saved or lost as well as lower or higher recovery costs. When many lives and properties are at stake, finding an effective model to mitigate the effects is crucial. An Open-Source Equitable Decision Intelligence Model is being developed to address various community needs that may otherwise be overlooked.
A slightly different combination of factors for any specific threat and hazard can have vastly different results. As such, remember lessons from the past, explore current research, create new models, and continue to look for new ways to manage future events and disasters.