An assessment of local community disaster preparedness plans
Kasper, Judith A. (Student of Industry and Technology)
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The purpose of this study was to survey local Emergency Services and Disaster Agency Coordinators in northern Illinois regarding their disaster planning efforts. This was done by identifying emergency planning concepts which should be included in all local plans. Local coordinators were asked to compare their plan with these concepts to see how many were actually included in their local plan. Any community, at any time, can fall victim to a disaster. A local emergency plan helps a community function when the normal pace of life is disrupted. There are several reasons why it is difficult to develop an adequate disaster plan. First, much of the planning literature is outdated and what is available tends to concentrate on nuclear wars rather than weather or industrial accidents. Public opinion can also be negative toward planning. People tend to have a false sense of security if their town has not suffered a major disaster. Also, local coordinators are generally volunteers and may not have the resources or the authority to develop a truly effective plan. An effective emergency plan can save lives and property when disaster strikes if planning concepts have been addressed. Research which supported the validity of the proposed planning concepts was reviewed. A questionnaire was developed, pre-tested, and mailed to emergency planning professionals who rated the items for importance. A four point scale was used. A selection of '4' indicated that the item was very important. A selection of '1' indicated that the item was of no importance in planning. Weighted values based on these responses were calculated for each item. The questionnaire was sent to local Emergency Services and Disaster Agency Coordinators to gather data concerning their local plan. They were asked to respond yes, no, or don't know to the items. The findings of this study indicated that most local plans in northern Illinois do contain the necessary planning concepts which would enable them to deal with emergencies. The items most often neglected in these local plans were maps showing potential risk areas, an emergency response program for industry, lack of a systematic damage assessment procedure, and lack of a public information officer. Additional studies should be conducted in this area. These studies could be expanded to include other areas of the country. Larger population centers could be studied to see if their plans are adequate for their size. Other studies might bring to light other planning concepts that have been ignored.