A 1995 Chicago heat wave reminds officials to incorporate communal solidarity into continuity of operations plans

Promoting education and community in a municipality’s continuity of operations plan

Both 2010 and 2011 were record years for natural disasters, and it would be shortsighted for a municipality not to consider a viable continuity of operations plan should 2012 follow suit.  

The first step municipalities should take when preparing to successfully cope with emergency conditions is undoubtedly educating the public. Communities may resort to panic, looting or violence when disastrous circumstances strike, and to avoid such chaos, a municipality would benefit greatly from issuing a protocol that dictates exact actions to be taken for different emergency situations.

For example, understanding the significant threat of earthquakes in the Midwest, state and federal governments in nine states reportedly worked with emergency planning organizations to execute a massively scaled drill today. In this exercise, civilians will practice how to properly protect themselves and their families if legitimate seismic activity were to occur.

Additionally, it would greatly benefit municipalities to urge communal solidarity in the wake of disaster rather than allowing citizens to adopt an every-man-for-himself mindset. Illustrating the importance of staying connected under trying circumstances, City Watch, a local Los Angeles news source, recently recounted the 739 deaths that accrued during a 1995 heat wave in Chicago that toppled the city's infrastructure.

While it may initially appear that some were simply unfit to deal with such extreme weather, the article reports that the communities that suffered most were composed of withdrawn senior residents who attempted to cope with no assistance. By contrast, "equally physically vulnerable seniors in other neighborhoods survived the heat," the report noted, because they lived in communities with a strong social network and were urged to relocate to cooling stations.

Considering these past examples, in addition to issuing emergency protocols and disaster preparedness kits, municipalities should urge citizens to adopt a cohesive social ecology, and continually check up on neighbors' and friends' conditions.

For those municipalities that lack confidence in their ability to take these preventative measures, deploying the services of a certified disaster consulant is an excellent way to improve disaster preparedness strategies. Moreover, by attending the Continuity Insights Management Conference in Arizona this April, municipality representatives can acquire a detailed introduction in superior disaster preparedness and recovery techniques, and leave with a more complete understanding of how these methods can be applied to a specific region's needs.