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Discover the four phases of emergency management and planning

It is becoming clear that no one knows when an emergency or disaster may occur and where. The 2017 hurricanes, floods, wildfires, mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and spread of the Zika virus have really hit home. The need for communities, healthcare professionals, and facilities to be prepared is a local, national, and global priority. Are you preparing your students with emergency management strategies and plans?

Presented below are the four phases of comprehensive emergency management and what they might look like for health professionals and the community.

Prevention and mitigation of risks

Phase one is about identifying risks and working to prevent or reduce the threats or the damage that can occur. Part of this process includes naming the specific hazards that have harmed people, property, or the environment in the past in the region and projecting the possible occurrences into the future. It is also considering current social, ecological, and public health trends. It is after this information gathering has been done that community leaders and healthcare facilities professional can build strategic plans and determine the resources needed to implement them. Allied health professionals need to be aware of these planning processes to assist in them.

Here are some questions that might be asked: What risks are being faced? How can we prevent or minimize harm from these hazards? What resources do we have available to meet the threats if they do occur?

Preparedness

Phase two requires getting everything ready for immediate action if or when hazards happen, remembering “practice makes perfect.” The more exercises and drills that can be practiced before hazardous events happen, the more prepared emergency responders can be. When working with students, other health professionals, or those in your community, consider helping to organize or being part of a drill.

Here are some questions that might be asked: What goals and tasks are needed to respond to events? Have we gathered the resources (people, supplies, and equipment) needed? What is our evacuation plan? What training is needed to put our plans into effect swiftly and efficiently?

Response

The incident or event has happened and it’s time to respond. In phase three, groups and individuals involved in prevention and preparedness need to activate the plans they have set in place. It’s on them to save lives, protect their community, and aid in meeting basic human needs.

Here are some questions that might be asked: Are your first responders ready to take action? Are the healthcare facilities and health professionals ready for the surge of patients? Do you and your students know how to be part of the response?

Recovery

The impact of emergency and disaster events can hurt not only individuals but a community as a whole. Having educated and trained health professionals and leaders helps move the community to healing and rebuilding more smoothly. After these recovery processes have begun, planners and responders circle back to analyze what went well and what went poorly. Then they begin the first phase again, planning to reduce or eliminate future risks.

A strong community can help rebuild hope and positivity, as well as structures, buildings, and the environment. For instance, in Hurricane Irma about 7 million Florida residents had to evacuate or were dislocated. Yet because of what was learned in response to Hurricane Katrina, Sandy, and other storms, the evacuations went far more smoothly. FEMA deployed 34,000 personnel to the area (despite having sent 30,000 to Texas and surrounding regions for Hurricane Harvey). The Department of Health and Human services sent Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and pop-up medical tents and supplies. The EPA sent personnel to test waters for contaminants, and the military sent in 21,000 personnel to assist in assisting evacuations, security, clean up, and other functions.

However, it was the communities and the healthcare professionals in them who handled the first line response. The first responders, healthcare facilities, pharmacies, clinics, businesses, civic organizations, and faith-based groups all rose to the challenge. Volunteers from across the nation came from more than 60 organizations to assist in clean-up efforts and rebuilding. Learning from the past and becoming prepared made all the difference.

To learn more about emergency and disaster preparedness courseware, check out Emergency & Disaster Preparedness for Health Professionals, Second Edition.

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