Disaster Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness is everyone's business, even artists and crafts people. On Monday, April 12th, I was part of a panel on the topic of "Disaster Preparedness for Artists" sponsored by the Arts Council of Beaufort County. I also serve as a member of the Library's Disaster Recovery Team so this topic has been much on my mind as of late as we've been re-evaluating our disaster plans to protect the treasures of the Beaufort District Collection.

Given that life happens on a daily basis, and disaster is often part of life, then we must ready ourselves for the likelihood that today could just be the day that the earth moves beneath us -- as it did in 1886 -- or the day that a hurricane comes and tears up the town -- as it did in 1959 -- or a fire consumes much of Old Town Bluffton -- as it did in 1863 -- or a tornado touches the ground in a neighborhood subdivision -- as it did just this past week, as it did in 1933, as it did with loss of life on St. Helena Island in 1998 -- and try to prepare as best we can to survive the event, and to thrive after the event.

Whether one is responsible for a family or the holdings of a cultural institution, essentially all disaster plans start with the same 5 steps:

  1. Assess your risks.
  2. Develop priorities.
  3. Write your plan.
  4. Implement your plan.
  5. Execute your plan.

Admittedly, my priorities may not be the same as your priorities when it comes to the "stuff" of life. My situation could well be different than yours. My priorities for mitigating hazards at work are not the same as what I do to lessen my risk at home. At work, we need to be able to prove what we own and document any losses for the insurance company. At home, you need to be able to prove your identity, what you own, have your insurance policies and personal financial records gathered and ready to take with you, and create your emergency supplies container.

Bottom line: You are not ready to take care of yourself or your family in an emergency situation until you prepare in advance -- and the civil authorities will be too busy taking care of the larger situation than to address our individual needs when the emergency happens. As “The Lack of Disaster Preparedness by the Public and Its Affect on Communities” article from the Internet Journal of Rescue and Disaster Medicine, vol. 7, number 2 (2008) baldly states in its conclusion: "Ideally...it should be an individual's own responsibility to self-protect by either moving out of harms way; rebuilding structures less vulnerable to damage; or by properly insuring their property against loss."

The federal government has 13 agencies involved in disaster recovery in some fashion. The National Disaster Education Coalition consisting of the American Red Cross, FEMA, IAEM, IBHS, NFPA, NWS, USDA/CSREES, and USGS has produced a Family Disaster Plan guide that can help you get started thinking about what you will do when the time comes to deal with a disaster situation.

The panel at the Arts Council of Beaufort County was organized to talk about how an artist should protect his/her business from disaster. A startling statistic I found during my research to prepare for the panel was: 70% of businesses struck by disaster never recover. Here are a few of your best online resources to making sufficient preparation before a disaster strikes your business: The State of Virginia has uploaded a useful booklet called “Virginia Business and Organizations: Get Ready Now.”

A good step-by-step, business planning guide is available from the State of Virginia.

The IRS offers tips about "Preparing for Disaster" and "Reconstructing Your Records.”

FEMA has “Continuity of Operations Planning,” posted on its Ready site. The sample plan allows you to copy the form and fill in the blanks with information appropriate to your business.

The Small Business Administration has posted a 25 minute audio slideshow of “Disaster Recovery: Guide to SBA’s Disaster Assistance Programs.” For the more stalwart, one can read through the 391 page written guide to SBA’s Disaster Assistance Programs online.

For safety before, during, and after an earthquake from the Earthquake Country Alliance read Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country.

The Beaufort County Emergency Management department has posted good advice about how to prepare for the inevitable. The pamphlets on hurricanes, insurance, and specifically for Daufuskie Island are available in both English and Spanish.

My take away from the panel was to "test" the evacuation route into the interior. As Todd Ferguson noted, "It's easy enough to get out of Beaufort County seeing as there are only 2 roads out -- Hwy. 21 or Hwy. 278 -- but once you get to Jasper or Hampton County, where are you going from there? Are any parts of your proposed route currently under construction? Are the roads clear?" Sheltering in those counties (once part of Beaufort District, by the way) may not be possible depending on the projected strength of the impending hurricane.

June 1st and the start of the 2010 Hurricane Season is almost upon us. Disaster Preparedness: It's something to think about.

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.