Awareness, preparedness, and responsiveness are vital concepts to understand when faced with a community emergency. Crises, including natural disasters and health & safety risks, can occur when least expected. To best prepare themselves for whatever emergency they may face, community members should be provided with basic public health guidelines and knowledge.
So what exactly does being prepared entail? It means understanding the type of community one lives in and how that community is susceptible to different types of emergencies. While urban areas tend to have more health and violence threats associated with a higher population, coastal areas are more in danger of natural disasters. People living in these different communities should be aware of the risks and devise a plan focused towards addressing these "more likely to occur" dangers.
Since not all disasters can be predicted beforehand, one of the earliest steps that should be taken is to develop a plan between friends and family. This plan should include informing members of where to meet, where to go, and where to stay incase of an incident. An emergency kit should also be made beforehand, containing essentials such as nonperishable food, tools and safety items, water, medications, and basic sanitation supplies. By following this guideline as early as possible, confusion and last minute preparation can be avoided entirely.
The people to turn to for further advice and news are local and national officials. It is extremely important to be aware of the developing situation and any current news updates regarding the danger level. For example, previous news updates may inform people to shelter in place to best provide safety. However, circumstances may change as the danger becomes more prevalent, forcing communities to evacuate somewhere safer. This was seen in the case of Hurricane Sandy, as the storm strengthened and it became too dangerous for people to stay in the coastal area. If officials tell people to evacuate, they must do so immediately. Listen to any instructions given and be ready to adapt to the developing situation. Following these steps can make all the difference in light of a life or death situation.