file under: Emergency Response, Environment, Facilities, Federal Government, Government, Integrated Resources Management, Sustainability, Program Management

10 Steps to Disaster Preparedness

Disasters affect millions of people each year on a personal, business, local community or national level. The golden rule for successful disaster management at all levels is to increase awareness, develop actions plans and practice them. Waiting for a disaster to take place is not the right time to plan. Communicating and building relationships with those around you, whether they contribute actively to the plan or are dependent on it, will have the most significant and positive affect in determining your resiliency throughout an event. Below are 10 actions to keep in mind when planning to mitigate disaster and resources to help prepare:

  1. Be ready at home—Prepare, plan and practice. It is important for individuals and families to increase their awareness, get educated, engage in preparedness conversations and stay informed. Visit for toolkits and downloadable emergency plans.

  2. Be ready at work—Does your office have an emergency and evacuation plan? Have you communicated it? How do you stay in contact with local authorities to determine what to do? Finding answers to these and other questions will ensure greater safety and success when dealing with disaster.

  3. Know your community’s vulnerabilities—Understanding what types of disasters are most likely to affect your location will help inform your plan. Enter your zip code to discover the potential risks you face.

  4. Learn about agencies and roles—Preparedness is a shared responsibility—all government agencies at every level have roles and responsibilities to fulfill in supporting preparedness. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website has information to help you prepare effectively.

  5. Find mitigation funding—A number of grant programs exist to fund disaster mitigation activities, reduce losses and protect life and property from future disaster damages. Review FEMA’s hazard mitigation assistance website for more information.

  6. Conduct a risk assessment—Conduct a risk assessment to identify potential hazards and consequences and follow through with action to mitigate risks.

  7. Inform your plan with statistics—Did you know that the most recurring and expensive disaster is flooding? Reduce disaster risks and build resilience by understanding key data.

  8. Plan for all types of risks—Emergencies are not all related to natural hazards. Some are man-made (e.g., fires, industrial or transport accidents, oil spills, explosions). It is important to be prepared for all possible risk scenarios.

  9. Understand continuity of operations (COOP)—This is a universally accepted term describing the stability of essential functions in a community or for a business. Disaster preparation should include knowing what these function are, who performs them and what they require to continue to perform in a disaster environment. Visit FEMA’s website for more resources.

  10. Research NGOs—Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are an important component of and complement to every community’s preparedness, assisting with disaster response and recovery. Learn more and find ways to get involved by visiting the American Red Cross and Citizen Corps.

Firas N. Makarem, CDM Smith vice president, has more than 18 years of experience in fields related to emergency management. Located in the Washington D.C. area, he supports U.S. federal government agencies with nationwide planning, mitigation and recovery projects at the state and local level. Makarem serves on the executive board for the Association of State Floodplain Managers Foundation and completed graduate studies at the George Washington University in engineering management with a focus on crisis, emergency and risk management.