How a City Prepares for Disaster Relief - InformationWeek
How a City Prepares for Disaster Relief
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5/21/2014 | 6:38:06 PM
How a City Prepares for Disaster Relief
Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Massive snowstorms. Floods. Extreme weather is becoming commonplace, leaving a wide range of destruction. These storms are unfortunately becoming more frequent and no city can skip making preparations for them. In fact, disaster planning and preparation is increasingly becoming a full time job. Are you the right person for the role? Here are some of the things that a city does to prepare for disaster relief.
Create a disaster readiness and response plan

Many cities, especially large cities have an Office of Emergency Management. They also have a well considered Disaster Readiness and Response Plan. The plan allows the city to coordinate resources to address the needs of the community as fast and effectively as possible. The nature of disaster, however, means that there will not be enough resources for everyone who needs help.
Designate a team

One thing you can count on after a disaster hits is that there will be a lot of chaos. It's normal and understandable that people will panic after disaster strikes, especially if essential services are disrupted. People are worried and upset when access to power or water is disturbed. That's why you need to establish one core team of dedicated workers who are trained in disaster readiness and work together to prepare plans for those circumstances. People who are cool headed and have good stress management skills are especially well suited to be in the role of a first responder.
Analyze and prevent

City planners prepare for disasters by evaluating the regions in their towns that are most vulnerable to damage from weather catastrophes. For example, common areas that are at greatest risk include tall buildings in tornado zones, buildings along the shores of bodies of water and buildings in low-lying areas prone to flooding. Problems may be preventable in some of these areas before weather disasters strike by reinforcing weak spots with new or enhanced construction methods and by creating zoning restrictions.
Many cities compile binders or files with hundreds of pages of documents that explain how natural disasters will be handled, including which essential services will still continue and how they will operate, how traffic may be re-routed, when and which contractors will be called to make necessary repairs and what kind of crowd management tactics may be used to prevent and minimize chaos. These binders are updated as the community learns from each disaster.
Plan for communication
It's essential that crucial messages can get out to the public as quickly as possible. Informing people about the rescue and repair plans that are in place can minimize panic and mayhem, which is an important goal in itself. You'll need to have contact information at hand for local media, including television stations, radio stations and websites, so you can get those messages out right away. Avoid needing to scramble to find that information during an emergency.
Help the public prepare

Considering that natural disasters are increasing in frequency, there's no excuse anymore for households to be unprepared for them. As a city planner, it may be your role to help citizens create their own survival kits. You'll need to prepare awareness campaigns to encourage the public to acquire the supplies they will need to get through a few days if access to food, water and electricity are disrupted.
Make recommendations

Even if you are part of the committee that works on disaster readiness, you're likely to still be accountable to many other people, including your city managers and the public themselves. Expect that you'll make recommendations but may have to revise them in accordance with greater public agency guidelines. Working to respond quickly and efficiently after natural disasters is challenging work but it can be very thrilling and rewarding to protect your community.

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