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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2019 Vol. 66 No. 5

P Is For Planning

At the ripe old age of six, I was a certified Masters of Preparedness. I knew when to Stop, Drop, and Roll; how to crouch in the hallway in case of tornado; and which tree next to the playground to meet at if we evacuated. An overachiever, I had memorized routes to school, friends' houses, and meeting spots in the neighborhood. I could recite all the important phone numbers, and had them on mental speed dial for any emergency. I was also a professional at handling stress through the art of meditative coloring and taking naps!

Somehow, by adulthood, I let my certifications lapse. I no longer had time to practice fire drills or memorize routes: there was work to be done. One day, I woke up on the other side of the proverbial desk. I had become the teacher; responsible for engendering a culture of preparedness in my peers, my coworkers, and the constituents I served. Not only do I need to know where to go in a fire drill, I write the plans for which route to take, how to be accountable, and which go-bag to grab that has my call-tree in it. I truly appreciate how my own preparedness as a child was built upon the extensive planning and efforts of the adults in my life.

I would hazard that most of you are in a similar boat. In addition to a family that relies on you, you have taken on the mantle of public servant: a profession that others turn to in a time of need. You are stewards of the safety and health of your constituents, your staff or coworkers, and your community at large. Yet, do we feel like Masters of Preparedness? Or are we a little behind in our dues and feel like we are struggling to get back into good standing?

Planning can be difficult, but taking the time to have a plan can mitigate a hundred smaller disasters and stresses. Planning gets you back to those Kindergarten basics by clearly defining the Who, What, When, Where, and How of your response. Starting can be as simple as your ABCs.


You can't plan for something you don't know is out there. Evaluate which disasters have the greatest probability of either happening or having the greatest impact on you. Are you in a flood zone or tornado alley? Would a power outage shut down critical services to your clients, or are you more concerned about the impact of an animal disease outbreak on your community? Find your disasters and use those to frame your plans.

B—Break It Down to Build It Up

There are three levels of preparedness planning that everyone is responsible for: Individual, Family, and Professional. While disaster planning has other levels (Regional, State, Federal), these three lay the foundation. After you've determined what your biggest disaster threats are, you need to break them down to each level to start building your plans.

  • Planning for the Individual: What are you going to be doing in a disaster? For the same reason flight attendants tell you to put your mask on first before helping others, knowing what to do to protect yourself is the first step in being a survivor -- not a victim.
  • Planning for the Family Unit: define "family" however you like: immediate, extended, close friends, or just your pet. What roles and responsibilities does each member of the family have in a disaster? Don't assume everyone knows what to do or is on the same page: make a plan and communicate it!
  • Planning for your Professional Role: As public servants, planning for your professional role is both internal and external facing. You and your coworkers/staff should know what to do, practice doing it, and be prepared to do so. You also should promote the same level of preparedness in your constituents and make them aware of your plans and their role in them.

C—Continuing Education

We're not talking about the CEUs you need to maintain a license; we're talking training and practice. Having a plan is not the same as executing it. Your Kindergarten teacher didn't just tell you what to do in a Fire Drill: they made you do it until you had built up muscle memory and any alarm made you hop in line. Practice your plans: you'll always find room to improve, add details, and better respond under pressure.

There are a lot of resources to guide you through the process. To get started, visit the TAHC website or Then, when you're done planning, perhaps try coloring or take a nap: you deserve it.

Olivia Hemby, Emergency Planner, originally written for the Texas Veterinary Medical Association

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