Disaster management, one aspect of emergency management, provides a framework for understanding disasters and how we handle them.
There is some debate about the specifics, but the model we have found most useful defines 5 steps:
- Prevention – We can take actions to prevent a disaster from happening in the first place.
For example,in the United States, 90% of wildfires are caused by humans, and these fires are by and far the major threat to human habitation. . Between 1980 and 2007, in Idaho, more than half of such human-caused wildfires were started by campfires, smoking, or burning debris!
- Mitigation – We can take actions to reduce the impact should disaster happen.
For example, we can harden our houses and clear combustibles from around them so that burning embers from wildfires are less likely to set them on fire.
- Preparedness – We can be ready to take action should disaster happen.
For example, before a wildfire even starts, we can have evacuation plans and pre-packed bags or packing lists ready. Most communities provide localized preparation guides such as this evacuation guide from Fire Safe Marin.
- Response – We can take actions to do what needs to be done to protect lives and well-being when a disaster actually happens.
For example, when a wildfire is burning and threatening the area , we can evacuate as quickly as possible to ensure our safety and get out of the way of firefighting efforts.
- Recovery – We can take actions to rebuild stability and normalcy when a disaster has happened.
For example, after the fire has passed and evacuation orders have been lifted, we return to our homes to see what damage we and our neighbors have suffered. Then, we can think about rebuilding, and consider what we can do to prevent, mitigate and prepare for the next one.