Disaster Zone

Wrong Catastrophic Disaster Assumptions

Are we assuming some things that are not really going to happen?

by Eric Holdeman / September 18, 2012

Earlier today I was in a discussion on catastrophic planning and what assumptions that we may be making that are not correct. 


A few things I contributed to the discussion were:


  • Are we sure that elected and senior appointed officials will act appropriately and use the professional advice they are receiving from their emergency management staff?  Or, will they listen to other voices, that advise courses of action that will only cause trouble either immediately or down the road?
  • We continue to plan as though all our people resources are going to be there for us to allocate to various missions.  I'm talking about law enforcement, fire, medical, hospital, emergency managers, teacher, etc.  If the event is catastrophic and the above individuals and their families are in the disaster zone I don't think many will be at work.
Then there were a couple of good comments from others:
  • We need to do a better job at managing the expectations of the average citizen and other special populations.  It will not be business as usual or anything close to it in a catastrophic disaster.  I believe we need to think not just about triaging patients, but the entire disaster.  What can we accomplish and what do we need to just "write off" as impossible under the circumstances.  
  • Improvisation is an important aspect of responding to disasters.  However, everyone can't be improvising in their respective silos.  We need to find ways to coordinate as we improvise.  The interdependent nature of the disaster response will ensure that our independent actions will surely impact others--sometimes negatively.
  • Katrina was the first time in recent memory that foreign nations offered us disaster assistance.  We need to get better at asking for help and orchestrating the use of international resources.

Lastly, it came to me that we can't count on catastrophes coming as single events.  There is nothing to say that we might have multiple catastrophes—simultaneously.  A hurricane in the Southeast and the "Big One" on the West Coast.  Wouldn't that be fun!