Blogging in Service: Edison Potter on Preparedness

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Blogging in Service: Edison Potter on Preparedness

               I began my term as an AmeriCorp VISTA with SALT on August 3, 2015. I’m currently the Preparedness and Disaster Services Technology Coordinator. Before that I had volunteered with them for two months. Having grown up in Schoharie, Hurricane Irene changed my life, as it did so many others. Instead of blowing me off track, however, helping cleanup after the flood served to clarify some things in my life, and lend me a sense of perspective. As a college sophomore, I discovered that Emergency Management was a thing that existed, and I had already experienced it first-hand. I found out that it was something I could do, a career that would let me help people and communities, and I’ve been pursuing it in the four years since.

               Emergency Management is a cycle:

  •         Preparedness – Knowing and understanding the threats, and being ready for them.

  •         Response – Dealing with a disaster or emergency when it occurs.

  •         Recovery – Putting things back together in the aftermath, as is SALT’s mission.

  •         Mitigation – Knowing what has happened, and preventing it from happening again, or working today to lessen the losses or damage of tomorrow.

This cycle begins at, and circles back around to, preparedness. It’s part of my job title, it’s part of what I do every day, and it’s something I’m passionate about. September is National Preparedness Month, and I would like to use this opportunity to talk a little about why preparedness is important.

               Look at the Emergency Management cycle above. Preparedness comes before everything else, and after everything is said and done. The concept gets a bad rap as doomsaying. People don’t like to think or talk about the bad things that could happen. Understandably so! Not talking about them, not thinking about emergencies or disasters, doesn’t prevent them. Denial is not effective mitigation. Preparedness helps individuals and communities build resilience and smooths the way for the rest of the cycle steps.

               When you’re prepared, your response is faster, more organized and effective. When you have all of your papers in one place ready to go, when you have enough food and water, enough flashlights and batteries, you are ready to respond. There’s less wasted, dangerous, harmful time between something happening and your safety. On a county and national level, preparedness means a fire station on standby; it means an ambulance packed and ready for dispatch; it means resources go where they’re needed, when they’re needed.

               When you’re prepared, you’ve got firmer footing under you to recover. Systems are in place in a prepared community. SALT was born of a need to manage volunteers in large numbers, as they poured in to help Schoharie following Hurricane Irene. We’ve seen what a community goes through, what people suffer, and the kindness and resources that come pouring out in aid. Schoharie is more prepared now than we have ever been because of the lessons learned toiling in recovery.

               When you’re prepared, you can see what you’ve done, what has worked, what hasn’t, and you can plan for mitigation more clearly. Maybe you weren’t as prepared as you should have been. Maybe emergency services weren’t as prepared as they should have been, maybe your house wasn’t set high enough. You see where your preparations have won and lost and you start over again: You work to make your life, your home, your community, safer.

               You prepare.

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