September is Preparedness Month and this is the first of four blogs we will post during this month focusing on various aspects of preparedness. In this missive, I will talk about threats since preparedness is first and foremost about anticipation which starts with what threats should one be concerned about.
Threats may take many forms including natural and manmade events. This may include chemical exposures, radiation events, infectious diseases, and a wide variety of natural disasters from fires, to floods, to hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Considering which threats may be of highest frequency in your geographic location is important. The scope and impact of specific threats is also an important consideration. If you live in the Western US, wildfires have become an increasingly frequent threat with a large impact as climate change affects weather patterns in the West. Similarly, if you live along the Gulf or Atlantic coasts, hurricanes are very regular events on an annual basis.
Anticipation of these events and modeling for the human health impacts will be central to how a preparedness plan is developed. This modeling may be done using historical data from prior events to identify human health impacts. This is part of situational awareness that is frequently forgotten in the pre-event phase but will be critical to the anticipation of the supplies, staff, and space that may be necessary to prevent or respond to the impact of the event.
Threats can unfold very rapidly (e.g., wildfires, hurricanes. Tornadoes) or can unfold very slowly, as we have seen with the last 18 months with SARS CoV2. This presents very different challenges in preparing for and responding to the threats that materialize. Consider the nature of the threat and its impact on the continuity of operations, continuity of business, continuity of government, and even the continuity of society in your community. Do not forget that anticipation and response to these impacts will be critical to strengthening your community resiliency, the effectiveness of the response, and the speed of recovery.
Next, we will explore the importance of situational awareness and the need for a common operating picture to execute an effective response and recovery plan.