After every incident, the importance of preparedness is recognized, emphasized and improved.  


Limited emphasis has been put on preparedness in this document because its goal is to assist after an incident.  However, it is obvious that a well designed and well practiced disaster plan will mitigate loss and trauma from an incident, whether man-made or nature based.

Guidelines, based on lessons learned from past incidents, for developing a viable disaster plan follow.

Recommendations based on discussions during Collective Reflections in Oklahoma City

  • Disaster Plans are key to mitigating loss and trauma and must be practiced as well as written.  Community leaders, employees, and community organizations all need training, at a minimum, in the areas of most likely possibility.
  • Plans must include ways to provide for the basic needs of those who will be called upon to function during and after the disaster.  These include food, clothing, shelter, etc.
  • Community volunteers, “fly-away” or “strike” teams, and anyone else who plans to help during/after the disaster must have been trained and remain prepared.
  • Off site venues must be identified.  For businesses, this means storage areas for items necessary to continue operations, as well as alternate work venues.  For volunteers and helpers, this means places people can go to coordinate tasks, get help, find resources and seek services.
  • Multiple means of communicating with community, employees and families must be established under the assumption that at least one will not be working.
  • Employees and volunteers must be cross-trained so people can step into different jobs.
  • A “buddy system” with a counterpart agency, organization or division in another region must be in place with the understanding it will send help when needed.
  • Disaster leadership training should be incorporated into management education and include information about post-traumatic stress and what can be done to help people recover.
  • Businesses and communities must be aware of local resource availability and disaster assistance organizations.
  • Networks should be maintained among critical groups, including local, state and national political leaders; service-providers, case workers and emergency responders; religious leaders and disaster assistance and resource providers.
  • Political leadership must know what national, state and local resources are available and how to access them.
  • The media, local media in particular, must recognize its responsibilities and potential contributions, specifically how to cover stories of disasters in ways that are respectful and helpful to the public and to those directly impacted.
  • Schools, students and children must be incorporated in disaster preparedness plans.

Recommendations made by Charleston based on lessons learned from Hurricane Hugo.  Emergency preparedness, in both the public and private sectors, is vital.

  • Establish a “disaster team” comprised of local government officials and representatives of all sectors of the community, including business and industry, utilities, transportation, military, social services, etc.
  • The Emergency Operations Center staff should include both a business/economic component that specializes in disaster preparedness for business and someone knowledgeable for all rules and regulations related to federal, state and local programs for disaster relief.
  • Because of the time-consuming first step in applying for federal disaster relief, businesses should have pre-filed verification records on file with local government agency.  In the event of a disaster, the records would eliminate the initial step in the application for federal aid that requires verifying that a business exists.

Recommendations resulting from research

  • Include both media and a broader base of NGOs and Faith Based Organizations in the training and tabletop drills.
  • Enlist media in educational campaigns to encourage Americans to make individual preparedness plans.
  • Make disaster planners aware of and give special attention to minority and disadvantaged groups within the community to assure that their needs will be met.  Alternative and ethnic media and special community networks working with the minorities, vulnerable and/or disadvantaged can be of assistance in enhancing disaster preparedness.

Individual Risk Perception vs. Professional Risk Assessment

Risk assessment and risk perception by individuals, or even communities, are not necessarily the same.  After 9/11 many people refused to fly, fearing another terrorist attack.  However, this may have been the safest time to fly given the increased vigilance in security and the essence of a terrorist attack being a surprise.  People living below sea level in New Orleans, in spite of risk assessments and the concerns raised by the FEMA Hurricane Pam exercise in 2004, failed to increase their vigilance on the levees, purchase flood insurance, or take loss reduction measures with respect to their property.  In California, insurance demand increases for earthquake insurance after a quake occurs.
This lack of threat perception on the part of individuals impacts the ability of the community leaders to act on professional threat assessments. “The way that individuals perceive risks – and behave in dealing with them – often creates enormous disaster management problems.” (Daniels 7) This poses a tremendous challenge for community leadership. It is very difficult to adequately prepare for low-probability, high-consequence events.

Preparedness Related to Fire Risks

There is a national Firewise Communities program resulting from a multi agency effort designed to reach beyond the fire service by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, and others in the effort to protect people, property, and natural resources from the risk of wild fires before a fire starts.  The Firewise Communities approach emphasizes community responsibility for planning in the design of a safe community as well as effective emergency response, and individual responsibility for safer home construction and design, landscaping and maintenance.

Firewise Communities is part of the National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Program, which is directed and sponsored by the Wildland/Urban Interface Working Team of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, a consortium of wildland fire organizations and federal agencies responsible for wildland fire management in the United States.  The Working Team of the national Wildfire Coordinating Group includes USDA Forest Service, USDI Bureau of Indian Affairs, USDI Bureau of Land Management, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, USDI National Park Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Fire Administration, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Association of State Fire Marshals, National Association of State Foresters, National Emergency Management Association, and National Fire Protection Association.

For community assistance contact
Michele Steinberg

For media information contact
Amy Bollinger

Resources to Assist in Writing Community Disaster Plans

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA)

FEMA provides resources for hazard planning and mitigation for both natural and man-made hazards.  FEMA also provides a detailed set of guides as a result of the Disaster Mitigation Act 2000 passed by Congress that requires local communities to address local hazards to be eligible for certain FEMA disaster funds.  Their State and Local Mitigation Planning How-To-Guide series can help communities integrate risk assessments with local planning.

Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

The Oklahoma City National Memorial Archives has an extensive collection that includes every facet of the Oklahoma City incident from search and rescue through the memorial process.  They also have a significant collection on the New York City portion of the 9/11 attacks.  These collections include logs, reports, and lessons learned that are of value in planning, responding and mitigation.

Terrorism and Disaster Center (TDC),

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC)

TDC has developed a Building Community Resilience for Children and Families that is an excellent guide for preparing children and families to sustain the trauma of disasters, either man-made or natural.  It provides a strong foundation to mitigate the impact of such disasters.

Contact:  Brian Houston
Phone     405.271.5251, ext. 47633

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