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Defining Disaster

Defining Disaster

Level 1 Emergency

Level 1 – Emergency A level 1 event is an event that moves beyond the potential of a hazard and poses an immediate threat to one’s health, life, or surroundings. Examples of an emergency would be a fire in your home

There are different types of events and this should be considered when planning for your future and your family.  Discussing how to plan for an incident requires an approach to categorizing the nature, size and duration of events.  For the purposes of this article, incidents can be considered in four different categories, Hazards, Emergency, Disaster and Catastrophic event. The post disaster time frame is typically divided into three phases: acute or short term (1 month or less), intermediate (1–12 months),or chronic or long term (12 months or longer).

Hazard:  has the potential to cause harm to health, life, safety, or the environment and increases vulnerability, although it may not require a rapid response.  Learn how to reduce hazards in your home and how to recognize hazards in your surroundings.

1.  Emergency:  A level 1 event is an event that moves beyond the potential of a hazard and poses an immediate threat to one’s health, life, or surroundings.

Examples of an emergency would be a fire in your home.

May 21 Tornado Flyover

Level 2 – Disaster: Extraordinary situations that require an immediate response, it can be adequately managed at the local level by designated responders, such as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and public health officials using local resource

2.  Disaster:  Extraordinary situations that require an immediate response, but can be adequately managed at the local level by designated responders, such as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and public health officials using local resources (Guha-Sapir, 2000) Essential services such as food, water, housing, health care, and sanitation are usually disrupted for prolonged periods of time.

World Health Organization defines a disaster as an event involving 100 or more persons, with 10 or more deaths, an official disaster declaration, or an appeal for assistance.  Disaster could be an isolated tornado.

3.  Catastrophic Event: What is a catastrophic or large scale event?  It is any natural or manmade incident, including terrorism, which results in extraordinary levels of mass causalities, damage, or disruption severely affecting the population, infrastructure, environment, economy, national morale and/or government functions.  It is a sudden and extreme disastrous event,

3.  Catastrophic Event - sudden and extreme disastrous event, causing an upheaval in the order of communities (Pakistan Floods 2010)

Level 3 – Catastrophic Event – sudden and extreme disastrous event, causing an upheaval in the order of communities (Pakistan Floods 2010)

causing an upheaval in the order of communities, which requires an extensive recovery process that fundamentally changes the surrounding environment (Homeland Security, 2008). Catastrophic event example would be Hurricane Katrina, or the Japan Earthquake.

Below are some examples of disaster level planning.

Survive
Level 1:  Learn CPR, First Aid techniques and have a first aid, and how to contact local emergency teams i.e. 911.
Level 2:  Be familiar with who your local first responders are, where are there Citizen Corps or CERT Teams because in larger events, 911 may be overloaded.  Understand the location of alternate clinics and regional hospitals.
Level 3:  Learn survival tips for “When there is no doctor” discuss scenarios with friends & families how can you help each other.  Join a short wave radio club.  Maintain survival items in your vehicle.  Store a spare set of keys in an alternative location.

Sustain:
Level 1:  learn how to shelter in place, identify a meetup place on or near your home, practice evacuation.
Level 2:  Plan for intermediate housing with family, friends.  Identify meet up place in or near your community
Level 3:  Discuss scenarios with friends or relatives in another state.  Provide friends and loved ones with the contact information for your out-of-state destination.  Make sure your children know the plan.

Reunite:
Level 1:  Practice your escape plan and identify a meetup place on or near your home, program your “ICE” contact in your phone.  Keep a spare phone in your vehicle.
Level 2:  Identify a meet up place in or near your community, plan checkin times (such as 10, 2 and 4) to save phone battery. Text your loved ones “IMOK”.  If you need to check on them text them “RUOK”
Level 3:  Identify a family meet up place in another state.  Print out and store this information in your vehicle and with friends.

Sign up for the 303 Plan which will help you practice your plans every three months.

Surviving Disaster

Time may be very limited for some victims. The first 24 hours after a disaster has been called the “Golden Day” that period during which injured or trapped victims have an 80 percent chance of survival if rescued.  The First 24 Hours Foundation urges the public when disaster strikes to “use common sense”, work as a team and help the person next door.  Time is the critical parameter for the rescue of victims buried under collapsed buildings. There is a window in the first 24-hours when people who are injured and trapped can be saved, followed by a three-day period when trapped but uninjured victims can be successfully rescued. But after three days the chances of survival diminish rapidly unless the trapped person has access to drinking water.   

Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services. Factors such as number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect at a moment’s notice through 911. People will need to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate life saving and life sustaining needs.  Developing and supporting a local Community Emergency Response team is one way to improve survival.

This article is republished and originally appeared in October 2011

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