Emergency preparedness describes the act of taking measures to reduce the impact of a disaster. These measures can be taken to counter both natural and manmade disasters. Emergency preparedness is distinct from disaster prevention, because while disaster prevention focuses on avoiding or eliminating the onset of the disaster itself, emergency preparedness focuses instead on reducing the negative effects of the disaster. It is particularly important to supplement disaster prevention efforts with emergency preparedness because some disasters cannot be prevented, particularly natural disasters, and also because even disasters that are preventable cannot be prevented with total effectiveness.
Emergency preparedness is usually considered to be a four step process, with a fifth step, prevention sometimes added to the beginning to ensure that the possibility of preventing a disaster altogether is not forgotten.
Mitigation is the first step in emergency preparedness. It consists of proactive measures, put in place before a disaster occurs, that will immediately help to reduce damage or harm from a disaster when it happens. It is considered the first step because these measures are the first to take effect once a disaster does occur, making them a first line of defense.
Common examples include building systems, like automatic sprinkler systems that take effect immediately in case of a fire. More relevant examples are earthquake resistant architecture and safety retrofits for buildings, since earthquakes can be predicted to a degree, but not prevented. These measures help to reduce damage to a building and harm to its occupants once an earthquake happens.
The second step is preparedness. As with mitigation, preparedness measures must be put in place before a disaster occurs. Most mitigation measures focus on the preparation of equipment and procedures to be used immediately once a disaster occurs. Unlike mitigation measures, these preparedness measures do not automatically reduce (or mitigate) harm or damage from the disaster, but help to deal with the immediate aftermath. Some examples are having food and medical supplies ready in the event that a disaster interrupts food lines or causes mass injury while making it difficult to seek medical attention through normal means.
The third step is response, which focuses on being ready to respond to the occurrence of a disaster with external help. This can include emergency medical attention or search and rescue, but also includes evacuation procedures. This step primarily focuses on coordination between organizations so that when a disaster occurs, they can efficiently work together to respond.
The final step is recovery, which takes effect after the immediate threat caused by the disaster has subsided. The recovery phase focuses on returning the area of the disaster and the lives of its inhabitants back to their normal state. These measures vary greatly depending on the type and length of disaster, but focus on being ready to recreate buildings, infrastructure and systems that will need to be replaced after the disaster.
"Emergency Management Program." Cornell University. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2016. <http://emergency.cornell.edu/cuemp/>.
"The Four Phases of Emergency Management | Emergency Management." St. Louis County, Missouri. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2016. <http://www.stlouisco.com/lawandpublicsafety/emergencymanagement/thefivephasesofemergencymanagement>.