Preparing for a disaster

Thomas Nelson

While a traditional slogan is “No one can predict a disaster,” it doesn’t mean people can’t prepare.

Organizations throughout Story County are among those leading the effort to help people become prepared for the inevitable, as well as to help the victims of disasters.

The Story County Coalition for Disaster Recovery and the Story County Department of Emergency Management are the umbrellas that assist those organizations.

“We aren’t trying to reactively approach disaster preparedness, said Kathlyn Wessels, Story County Coalition for Disaster Recovery coordinator. “We’re trying to proactively approach it.”

The main theme that rings true for disaster preparation is being proactive or “being hazard aware,” Wessels said.

“Be prepared, know what goes on around you,” said Melissa Spencer, deputy coordinator for Story County’s Emergency Management.

Having insurance is an important part of preparedness, she said, especially having renter’s insurance.

“Students don’t need to look far or think too deeply to create a disaster plan,” Wessels said. “You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”

The five main ways to approach a disaster are prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation, said Stephen Simpson, director of Emergency Management and Outreach Environmental Health and Safety.

Simpson said prevention of a disaster is simple: avoid situations that can lead to a disaster and keep your home or vehicle in a good enough condition to avoid preventable disasters.

To prepare for a disaster, experts say a person needs to develop a plan for the most logical situations that could happen.

Response is how someone handles a disaster when it actually happens; ideally, this is getting out of the danger zone. Recovering from a disaster is also important and often over looked.

Mitigation is the final step, which is working toward fixing and preventing a similar disaster, and is the less known step.

Disasters are sometimes not of the natural variety, but can take place when an active shooter is on campus or another public space.

An example of this kind of a disaster plan is the ISU Response Guide. Law enforcement currently practices the violent incident response, ALICE, which shows students what to do in case of an active shooter.

ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. The acronyms are meant to teach people to remain alert by calling 911; locking the doors and silencing phones; inform others in the area of the incident; attack or swarm the shooter if he or she enters a room; and finally, evacuate when it is safe.

Throughout a disaster, it is important to remember that you are not alone, Simpson said. The reason organizations such as the Coalition for Disaster Recovery exist is to assist people affected by disasters.

Angie Jewett, program coordinator of emergency management and outreach environmental health and safety, and Samone York, program assistant in the animal science department, are the representatives for Iowa State for the Coalition for Disaster Recovery.

However, Spencer said he would love to engage more with the university than their current status.

The Coalition for Disaster Recovery will host the Spring Fury to discuss disaster preparedness April 30. The event will take place at the City Church in Ames.

Individuals can join the coalition, but having a group is better, Wessels said. Anyone can inquire by sending an email to [email protected]