Stories that Matter: Managing the Disaster Cycle


It’s no secret that in the last, probably,
2-3 decades, the frequency and intensity of hazards, multiple types of hazards, have continued
to be on the rise. Managing natural disasters, I think the key word there is you know, you
have to manage you’re never going to overcome it. The best we hope for, really, is to be
smart about what we do everyday, where we place our facilities, how our network of transportation
and economics work so that we lessen the impact when a disaster happens. The work we’re doing
today in helping communities, nations, federal agencies be better prepared for and respond
to and recover from a disaster is making a big difference. The communities that are facing
hazards today are able to recover at a much faster pace. There are four stages of disaster
management. The first is around planning and preparedness. The second stage is response.
Immediate emergency work around getting systems back up and running. Also, it leads into–the
late stage of response leads into the early stage of recovery. That’s really when you
start looking at bringing back various systems into full operation, improvements to some
of these systems. When a natural disaster hits, communities have their first responders.
And our mission is to help those communities recover. We go in and we assess the damage,
how it’s been done, and determine what opportunities there are for them to build back smarter,
better, and stronger. For us to mobilize, we prepare, and we’re ready at a moment’s
notice to support the community as best as we can and to support the teams’ overall mission
which is to help these communities come back more resilient. The last and fourth stage
of the disaster management is around mitigation, tying back the circle back to planning and
preparedness. What are the things that you learned, what have you observed, how can you
do things better and mitigate against that hazard the next time? Post-disaster environment
is the best time to implement mitigation. When you have widespread destruction that
also means you have widespread rebuilding. And so that’s actually the best, most cost-efficient
time to implement mitigation measures as you’re rebuilding. The problem is that often communities
are in a hurry to rebuild quickly. Power lines are down, people need power, they put them
back quickly. Things like hospitals. And so, sometimes mitigation opportunities are missed.
I think there’s a lot more outreach and education to the communities about mitigation and so
hopefully over time, as risk is better understood, we just won’t be as susceptible to damage.
While there’s money widely available to communities to implement mitigation, there are some challenges
to getting that money. We’re constantly working with FEMA at the headquarters level and in
the field to provide efficiencies and how to get grant money to move faster to the communities.
Planning and preparedness works. And that mitigation works. And I saw evidence of that.
I would recommend community members be engaged with the planning process and determine what
they should do before disaster happens and after a disaster happens. I’ve responded to
a number of disasters, wildfire, flood, major hurricanes, and it’s always shocking no matter
how many disasters I’ve seen just the amount of destruction and the impact to the community.
It’s a very emotional response. At the end of the day, it’s people helping people. We
want to make sure that we take our passion and our successes and help implement those
across the world so that we can continue to make our society more resilient for the future
generations.

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