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Lessons Learned: Building A Culture Of Preparedness

Lessons Learned: Building a Culture of Preparedness

The 19th century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of Italian land was owned by 20% percent of the population. He further observed the phenomenon in other areas from population statistics to gardening, noting 20% of his plants provided 80% of the fruit. The Pareto Principal — later named for the economist — states 80% of consequences comes from 20% of actions, and this phenomenon has been applied to many aspects of our daily lives. Economic principals are generally not top-of-mind, but the concept often referred to as “the 80/20 rule” is observed in everything from economics to time management, to sports, to disaster planning.

When building a disaster plan, often a region’s most likely hazards will receive most of the attention, practice, and funding. If we apply the 80/20 rule to our scenario, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. However, in healthcare our primary goal is to maintain patient health and safety 100% of the time, thus making a case to think outside the rule.

Disaster planning should address more than just common emergencies or large-scale disasters. A disaster plan should also account for emergencies with a low probability that could have a high impact on the region and patient health and safety. It is critical for all communities to complete a Hazard Vulnerability Analysis to identify not only the 20% of disasters that will create 80% of the consequences, but identify all vulnerabilities.

Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic began, and we have learned many lessons in that time that we can apply to our daily lives. Emerging infectious diseases and/or pandemics were absent from many disaster plans, and the ripple effects reached far and wide:

At the end of 2019, we published a blog discussing the importance of building a culture of preparedness, and doing so is even more important today.  Over the past two years, all healthcare organizations have spent significant time and resources enhancing workplace readiness. But have we put the same effort into personal preparedness?  Every American should build a culture of preparedness at work and at home; a prepared community will be able to support healthcare when needed, and stay safely at home if essential disaster staffing has been met.

Revisiting FEMA reports, we see there were 120 federally declared disasters in the United States from January 1st to December 23rd, 2021.  Of the 120 declared disasters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported 20 weather related disasters exceeding $1 billion in damages  — a 100% increase from the prior year. These instances range from floods, to wildfires, to hurricanes.  As the trend goes northward, the statistics continue to seem overwhelming, but every household can be prepared in as little as three steps! The American Red Cross recommends starting a plan by:

  1. Discussing types of emergencies that are most likely to affect your community.
  2. Building a plan and disaster kit identifying responsibilities for each family member.
  3. Practicing all elements of the plan.

Visit our previous blog, Start the New Year Off Right By Building a Culture of Preparedness to ensure a lack of planning is not your next disaster.

By Jo Miller, MPH, RDN, Vice President of Nutrition 

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