I have only recently begun my career in emergency management. However, my experience over the last two years has shown how important it is to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion when planning for disasters. There are many communities that are simply overlooked or not properly planned for. Many of these underserved communities are in areas that are prone to flooding or other incidents. There are many things to consider when planning for the whole community and paying attention to these underserved areas needs to be a top priority.
In preparation for a potential disaster, such as a hurricane, it is important to realize which communities need help and address how to help them. For example, if a county establishes a sandbag location, they need to make sure it is accessible to everyone. Make sure a location is put either directly in the community or a reasonable distance. It is important to consider those who may not have transportation. Also, it is unrealistic to expect people to carry multiple, heavy sandbags on a bus.
After the disaster has occurred, assistance will most likely be a must in these areas. When people have been struck by a disaster and have potentially lost everything, where can they turn? Who do they trust? An important factor to consider is having people they can relate to. Do they look similar? Speak the same language? These factors make people comfortable and feel as though they can relate to those providing assistance.
Individual assistance isn’t enough to make people whole again after a disaster. When their homes are severely damaged or destroyed, they may not have enough money to put towards getting their homes repaired or to buy a new one. Assistance programs are just that, assistance. These programs are not designed to fully cover loss. Other options such as potential local financial assistance or donations from volunteer groups could bridge the gap a little more.
While this doesn’t address everything, I wanted to highlight some of the different things I’ve come across over the past two years. Planning for disasters must include the entire community. Have people from different backgrounds and ways of life at the planning table. We cannot think of everything by ourselves. Diversity is important in all aspects of life, but it is life saving when it comes to planning for a disaster. This is important to me because I grew up in these underserved communities. While I did not have it nearly as bad as others, I know the basics of what to plan for after a disaster has occurred as I experienced it firsthand.