Mitigation efforts are the key to minimizing damage during natural disasters

While the country continues to deal with the numerous response activities surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency managers in local communities and states must simultaneously continue to be vigilant about the potential for new critical incidents and disasters that could occur.

Currently, organizations are looking at ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, particularly with contact tracing. Similarly, emergency managers must proactively look at ways to lessen or mitigate widespread damages from natural disasters.

Along with preparedness, response, and recovery, a fourth and key phase of the emergency management cycle is mitigation. Mitigation is defined by FEMA as the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters.

Also, according to FEMA, “for mitigation to be effective we need to take action now—before the next disaster—to reduce human and financial consequences later (analyzing risk, reducing risk, and insuring against risk).”

A new report Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2019 Report, which was recently released by the National Institute of Building Sciences gives a comprehensive analysis of mitigation actions, including adopting up-to-date building codes and exceeding codes to the upgrade of utility and transportation infrastructure, to help lessen damages from natural disasters. (NIBS is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization established by Congress in 1974). The NIBS report states that mitigation can not only reduce the impact of natural disasters, but also improve safety, prevent property loss, and minimize disruption.

“While COVID-19 presents our nation with unprecedented challenges, natural disasters are continuing,” said Lakisha A. Woods, CAE, President and CEO of NIBS. “Millions of Americans are exposed to these disasters. Mitigation is a crucial step to keeping our homes, businesses, and communities safe.”

Mitigation efforts should be part of preparedness plans

Mitigation efforts are an investment in safety and security. Having a comprehensive critical incident management plan is essential to be prepared for natural disasters, and all organizations should constantly assess risks and adjust their plan to prepare for any incident, emergency, or disaster.

A crisis or disaster can happen at any time. And just because we’re dealing with one crisis doesn’t mean another one can’t occur simultaneously, as we saw recently with the tornadoes and winter storms that swept across the country in early April. While emergency managers and public health professionals are rightly focused on the pandemic response, those concerned with emergency management can’t take their focus off the fact that other critical incidents continue to occur.

It’s essential to revisit the processes that would happen in a “normal” disaster and determine how those processes should be updated considering preparedness and possible areas for mitigation efforts necessary to save lives, minimize damage or loss of property, and maintain business continuity in the current situation.

Preparedness should include action