Dr. Bill Munn’s tips for Disaster Preparedness

Posted on Aug 06, 2020

Today we would like to share a topic that is timely no matter what season: disaster preparedness. Our resident expert, Dr. Bill Munn, a lifelong emergency services professional with a passion for public safety, has previously developed and taught a course in emergency management for the Bush School at Texas A&M University. With us here at NGA 911, Dr. Munn has created and presented sessions on emergency preparedness for 9-1-1 facilities across the nation. In his presentation, he explains the numerous similarities between developing a comprehensive disaster recovery plan for local and regional governments and developing disaster recovery plans for 9-1-1 networks.

The Basics

Decide what your main objective is for your emergency plan. For many of you, that objective will be something along the lines of eliminating service interruptions, minimizing the impact of interruptions, and shortening the duration of the service interruption occurring through a natural or man-made disaster.

Once you have identified your overall objective, you’ll want to think in terms of the four phases of emergency management and identify the steps, actors, and activities associated with each phase. Those phases are hazard mitigation, equipping and preparing those impacted, response actions, and recovery to pre-disaster state.

Your plan should include steps and activities for institutions, the public, and emergency personnel.

8 Essential Elements of a Solid Plan What was that famous quote by Mike Tyson? Something like, “Everybody has a plan until…” It is one thing to have a plan, however, if it’s covered in dust somewhere in your backroom, well… you get the point. From his years of serving 1.9 million people in the DFW area and beyond, Dr. Munn offers eight elements to make sure your plan can become a powerful action if the need arises. Your disaster preparedness plan should be:

  • Comprehensive – It should include all the moving parts and the people who are essential to moving through the disaster to recovery.
  • Collaborative – anybody who is going to have a critical role certainly needs to be part of the planning phase. People that participate also tend to have buy-in and can help identify issues or deficiencies.
  • Integrated – Your plan should be inclusive of all elements such as institutions, vendors, sister organizations, stakeholders, etc. that are part of working toward a solution.
  • Updated – You don’t want to get on the phone at 2 a.m. only to find out that the person you need for a role retired last year. Keep your plan in a loose-leaf binder to make it quick and easy to update roles, contact info, and skills.
  • Flexible – Think of your plan not as a document, but instead as a living breathing thing with lots of moving parts. Just as disasters change by the minute, your plan and people must be able to flex around the situation.
  • Distributed – Your plan should not live with just one person. It should be distributed among the team.
  • Understood – Each member must truly understand their role in the context of the plan and all those if-then scenarios that can pop up along the way.
  • Practiced – Practice helps us understand what we don’t know! We also want to call attention to the new language used by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) when describing disaster preparedness. The focus now is on “disaster resilience,” as opposed to disaster preparedness, noting that the strength of resilience is in the integration of numerous factors and entities in coming together for a common purpose.

We hope you find this information helpful. If we can be of service in any way, please let us know. It is our pleasure to assist.