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10 Foundational Elements of Emergency Preparedness Planning

By Denis Korn

These 10 Foundational Elements of Emergency Preparedness Planning – AND RESILIENCY – and the suggested links are, in my opinion, essential components for beginning, improving and solidifying an effective, successful and beneficial preparedness and disaster survival plan. You are encouraged to conscientiously evaluate and embrace the information given and the guidance provided by the questions contained in the linked articles.

The wise and foolish builders

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like the foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

MATT 7:24 – 27 (NIV)

1 – Attitude

The importance of a proper and confident attitude is essential and key to not only planning for an emergency but also surviving an emergency. The right attitude is the cornerstone and foundation of the preparedness process. The 3 aspects of an appropriate attitude include the pragmatic and realistic; the emotions and thoughts: the religious and spiritual.

An appropriate attitude is essential not only to survival but also to effective functioning during a serious emergency. Your emotional and spiritual viewpoint are the sustaining components of enduring any emergency circumstance. The longer the emergency the greater degree of stress and anxiety, which will affect your health and well-being.

How serious are you? Do you believe it is essential for you and your family to incorporate the proper emotional and spiritual attitude in your preparedness planning? Who do you ultimately rely on for comfort, strength, and hope? Where is your faith?

Without a thoughtful, reasoned, sincere and discerning attitude regarding potential emergencies with potentially devastating circumstances, conditions, and outcomes, or the possible detrimental effects on family, friends, groups, and community – this article or any presentation or investigation into preparedness planning and resiliency is an exercise in futility.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

— Viktor Frankl, MD, Ph.D. 1905 – 1997 Psychologist, Philosopher, Author, and Survivor of 4 Nazi Concentration Camps

“Frankl’s wisdom here is worth emphasizing: it is a question of the attitude one takes toward life’s challenges and opportunities, both large and small. A positive attitude enables a person to endure suffering and disappointment as well as enhance enjoyment and satisfaction. A negative attitude intensifies pain and deepens disappointments…” William Winslade in the Afterword to Man’s Search for Meaning (2006 printing)

READ: Your Attitude is Your Decision – Own it!

2 – Critical Thinking and Discernment

While many think developing critical thinking skills are for the beginning philosophy student, they are, in fact, vital for everyone. Recognizing and overcoming the barriers to critical thinking are essential in creating and maintaining genuine, honest, and nurturing relationships and making effective and appropriate decisions.

A common denominator of these barriers is that the individual has no control over their effects. They are held captive by defective responses and impressions. One “reacts” to a situation, idea, or challenge, whereas the critical thinker “chooses” the process of thoughtful evaluation – embracing – and embodiment. The critical thinker has the freedom to rightly assess circumstances and concepts, and the result is to arrive at an appropriate and insightful conclusion and reasonable outcome.

In the pursuit of the embodiment of critical thinking skills, always be mindful of the value and necessity of honesty, wisdom, discernment, and the need to distinguish the truth from the lie. We live in an unprecedented time of media, institutional, educational, and political self-interest that will not hesitate to use any means possible to achieve its objectives, including deceptive indoctrination techniques, propaganda, deceitfulness, fallacious argumentation, and fraud.

READ: Barriers to Critical Thinking

3 – Overcoming the Normalcy Bias – The attachment to inaction

The normalcy bias refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. Denial is the operative state of mind. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of the government to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is made by many in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster has never occurred to them, then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.

The normalcy bias often results in unnecessary deaths in disaster situations. The lack of preparation for disasters often leads to inadequate shelter, supplies, and evacuation plans. Even when all these things are in place, individuals with a normalcy bias often refuse to leave their homes. The normalcy bias also causes people to drastically underestimate the effects of the disaster. Therefore, they think that everything will be all right, while information from the radio, television, or neighbors gives them a reason to believe there is a risk. This creates a cognitive dissonance that they then must work to eliminate. Some manage to eliminate it by refusing to believe new warnings coming in and refusing to evacuate (maintaining the normalcy bias), while others eliminate the dissonance by escaping the perceived danger.

READ: Normalcy Bias – Why People are Attached to Inaction

4 – Scenarios

What are the circumstances or scenarios you have determined may exist that will require you to rely upon your preparedness supplies?

What will be the severity and impact of those circumstances on your life? (This is not only the most important and first question to answer, but it is also often the question most overlooked, or not considered critically enough). Given your potential scenarios, how thoroughly have you researched the available options for food, water, medical, shelter, hygiene, and other categories of critical supplies? Are you prepared for emergencies during all seasons of the year? Is your family more susceptible to certain emergencies? How would your scenarios impact you or your family’s daily routine? Work or livelihood? How will you protect yourself and your family against those who might do you harm? The grid is essential to most homes and businesses – if it is down, how long could you function? What would society look like without the grid and a prolonged cessation of the availability of vital goods and services? Do you have backup power?

How long will your emergency scenario last, and what is the duration of time for which you will be preparing?

This is another critical question, and while it is difficult to envision the difficult details that might occur, the adequacy of your preparedness planning and supplies is directly tied to honestly answering this question. Needless to say, the longer the duration of the emergency, the more effect it will have on multiple aspects of one’s daily routine and lifestyle, and the need to be focused on the diversity of situations that will surround you.

READ: Beginning and Improving Preparedness Planning

The #1 Preparedness Question – What’s Your Scenario? (Why?)

5 – Knowledge and Skills

What preparedness knowledge do you personally have that is important in providing specific information and instructions needed during the emergency or emergencies for which you are preparing?

How about the knowledge of family or friends? What informational resources and references – books and other tangible items – do you personally have or have access to? How confident are you that you have the necessary knowledge and skills to be responsible and effective for yourself and your family during an emergency?

The realization that you have the appropriate knowledge and have adequately prepared for unforeseen emergencies is an essential factor in discovering and embodying peace of mind.

READ: The 12 Crucial Questions of Preparedness Planning

6 – Preparation and Action

The first step in the preparedness planning process is the acknowledgment that you have made a wise and sound decision and have chosen to take responsibility for yourself and your family and to be prepared in the event of unexpected circumstances. Be encouraged to continue this process with diligence, motivation, and discernment.

This process is basically undertaken in three phases – each one of which will take as much time as you wish to devote, and the degree of urgency you are experiencing.

  1. First, there is an initial assessment necessary to determine the direction you are heading.
  2. Second, there is further evaluation, research, and planning required to develop a firm foundation for the third phase, and to develop the clarity required for appropriate and accurate decision making.
  3. Third, there is taking action and assembling the appropriate provisions and critical information you have determined are necessary for your security and peace of mind. This phase is ongoing as you continue to evaluate, research, and build up your supplies and information.

READ: Beginning and Improving Preparedness Planning

7 – Supplies

For most people planning for emergencies is similar to planning for a camping trip or any other outdoor adventure where the normal conveniences of home are not available. The biggest difference is determining whether to plan for being away from home or being in your own residence – or perhaps both. The equipment to include in your emergency kit or camping supplies list will be very comparable. Differences and variations will generally depend upon the severity and length of time you anticipate for your emergency scenario. Long-term emergencies and outdoor explorations will require more extensive planning and provisioning.

Important questions to answer as you do your planning:

Are the equipment and supplies necessary to fulfill your needs going to be based on how cheap they are, or on the quality, value, and reliability of the product? What are the repercussions or benefits of the choices that are made? Who is affected? What chances are you willing to take with inferior and inadequate provisions? What will the climate be during the emergency or adventure? What is the probable availability of essential goods and services where you are going for your adventure or during your anticipated emergency?

Be clear about the time factors, persons involved, and situations that you anticipate will occur in an emergency or an outdoor experience. Knowing this information is crucial to stocking the appropriate items in the appropriate quantities. Many of these items will be essential for bartering if supplies are exhausted and the emergency you are preparing for is long term. Proper provisioning is about safety, health, protection, comfort, and peace of mind – for not only you but also your family and friends. Don’t forget the special needs – medical, food, or otherwise – of you or your family.

Do you have a list of essential supplies you believe will be necessary to have on hand during your estimated emergency?

Is it prioritized? Do you have a list of the essential categories your supplies fall under? What do you have on hand now?

During an emergency, what facilities, stores, resources, supplies, and assistance are available in your area apart from family and friends?

This includes not only information and education, but also essentials such as food, water, shelter, energy, communication, and medical supplies. What utilities in your area are vulnerable to disruption or elimination? What will you do to compensate for the loss of electricity, water, gas, or phone service?

READ: Checklist of Essentials for Emergency Preparedness & Outdoor Adventure Planning, Including Vehicle Preparedness

The 12 Crucial Questions of Preparedness Planning

8 – Considering Others

Many conscientious preparedness planners are realizing that individuals, groups, and churches should provide for the most vulnerable and those in need, especially in times of emergency. They feel it is the groups’, churches’, or an individual’s responsibility to take a leadership role in promoting contingency planning education and action for its members or others. There is ample historical precedent for this perspective.

As far as churches are concerned, some feel that much time, effort, and money is spent on spiritual issues and teaching activities (which are, of course, primary and essential), missions, and new facilities, but not enough on basic physical essentials such as food and daily necessities. There is a desire to make sure that church members, or anyone seeking the help of the church, such as the elderly, widows, disabled, single parents, and the poor, are secure with the essentials during times of adversity and disaster – especially when primary sources of supplies may not be available.

Family and neighbors often do not take responsibility for providing for themselves during emergencies. Considering others while one engages in the preparedness process is a very personal and important factor to consider. Whether it is provisions, education, or a desire to teach and motivate, all planners need to contemplate whether or not they will address the essential needs of others.

READ: Why Are So Many Christians Being Called to Prepare?

9 – Communication

What means of communication do you have available to you during an emergency, and with whom do you need to communicate?

This includes both two-way communication with others, including family, friends, and associates, and one-way communication from radio stations, emergency broadcasts, or individuals via short wave. Do you have a cell phone? Will towers be functioning? Landlines? Internet? Hand held walkie-talkies? Satellite phone? Short wave radios? Citizens band radios? Emergency radios and/or ham radios with two-way communication capability? During a serious emergency, accurate information and updates are essential for survival. What if an EMP (electromagnetic-pulse) from a solar flare or nuclear device renders all unprotected electronics useless? How will this affect the equipment you are relying upon?

READ: The 12 Crucial Questions of Preparedness Planning

10 – Networking

Are you dependent upon someone or something else to get you through and supply your needs during the emergency scenarios you presume will occur?

Are your neighbors or friends stocking up on enough supplies for you also? Do you honestly believe some level of government will be there to assist and resolve the situation? Do you have a community support network available? What skills and knowledge do you possess that you can contribute?

During a serious and/or prolonged emergency, it will be vital to have available to you and your family the support and expertise of others in your neighborhood and community. Everyone has a skill that they can share during challenging times. The sooner you discover those who are compassionate and sympathetic enough to network with others, the better it will be if an emergency occurs.

READ: The 12 Crucial Questions of Preparedness Planning