Read as Justin Kenton, MSU Grad with Do1Thing Talks About Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness and You

Justin Kenton 11/7/17

The United States has seen its share of disasters in recent years. Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and domestic terror acts have made their scars and left people homeless, separated from loved ones, financially unstable, injured, or worse. There may always be a threat of disaster, but emergency preparedness through Do 1 Thing can go a long way to helping avoid or better react to disaster situations. My name is Justin Kenton and I have had the privilege to work at Do 1 Thing as a practicum intern for my Master’s degree in public health from Michigan State University.

The discipline of public health deals with the health and well-being of the population, which contrasts with a physician, who specifically treats patients on an individual basis. For example, public health makes directives and policies aimed at altering population outcomes for the better, such as using a seatbelt while driving to decrease accident fatalities or injuries. A physician may have to treat a person who was injured due to not wearing a seatbelt during an automobile accident. The key difference between the two examples is that public health is predominantly preventative. Studying and working in the realm of public health and emergency management has broadened my perspective of health and safety.

Throughout my practicum experience I have learned a great many things. Perhaps the most critical, yet basic piece of information I have gained is knowing that disasters can happen at any time and leave one entirely caught off-guard and cut-off from normal routine. It is a simple concept that often gets overlooked. Disasters have a probability differential of transpiring based on geographic location, so it may not be necessary to prepare for a hurricane or volcanic eruption in Lansing, Michigan, but it would be beneficial to prepare for inclement weather that could cause a variety of problems.

Emergency preparation can provide one with a fundamental understanding and action plan that may help avert disastrous outcomes. While it is impossible to prepare for every type of conceivable disaster, there are basic principles that any person can build into their life to make a significant difference when a disaster does indeed happen. Communication, unique family needs consideration, food and water, shelter provisioning, and being informed are just some of the monthly focus topics of the Do 1 Thing program that aims to prepare a person for that winter ice storm, tornado, flooding event, severe storm, power outage, or other situation that disrupts normal life.

Preparedness may not resonate for many at a personal level because of something called normalcy bias, or in other words, the notion that nothing bad will ever happen because it never happened in the past. Take a minute and think about some of the common language used in normalcy bias that prevents a person from making decisions that could have been beneficial in a disaster. An example of an excuse to not prepare could simply be, “There hasn’t been a tornado around here for more than 20 years”. Experience does tend to influence the decision-making process, but not shedding the blinders of this type of bias is dangerous and unreasonably risky. The need to prepare for disasters is real and necessary.

When developing an emergency preparedness plan, it is important to recognize that it will take time and effort. Every component of the emergency plan does not have to be completed immediately. Use the time each month as an advantage to address the topic’s details and fully understand how to act when a disastrous event takes place. If you have family or other members in the same household, make sure that everyone understands and to address each person’s unique needs adequately. The Do 1 Thing outline will provide you with the framework to accomplish such tasks and can be a very useful tool to successful preparation.

The experience and knowledge I have gained while in this position at Do 1 Thing will serve me as a public health advocate in my career, but perhaps more importantly, it has motivated me to focus on developing my own comprehensive emergency preparedness plan. Do not gamble with the things in life that are most important to you. Plan and stay the course, for when a disaster strikes, you will be thankful of what you did ahead of time to remain safe and help others do the same. Now is the time to begin.