What is Disaster Preparedness?


Your safety in a disaster depends heavily on your own actions, and preparing for a disaster can reduce the fear, anxiety and losses that disasters cause.

Disaster preparedness can be defined as:

“A continuous cycle of learning, preparing, planning, equipping, training, evaluating, and taking corrective actions in an effort to ensure an individual, group or organization has developed a state of readiness to minimize loss or contain the effects of a disastrous event to life, injury, and property.”

Disaster preparedness also:

Community Disaster Assistance[1]
  • Refers to a set of actions that are taken as precautionary measures in the face of potential disasters. These actions can include both physical preparations (such as emergency supplies depots, adapting buildings to survive earthquakes and so on) and trainings for emergency action. Preparedness is an important quality in achieving goals and in avoiding and mitigating negative outcomes.
  • Means different things to different people – a private citizen, firefighter, police officer, health care worker, or an emergency responder – each having their own set of priorities and concerns relating to preparedness.
  • Is a continuous and integrated process resulting from a wide range of risk reduction activities and resources rather than from a distinct activity by itself.
  • Involves preparation on a personal, community, and national level and includes elements of both a private and public nature.
  • Is intertwined with hazard vulnerability and mitigation and requires each disaster to be individually assessed.

Disaster Preparedness Legislation

In the United States, legislation such as the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 (H.R. 307; 113th Congress), was enacted in order to develop the emergency personnel, procedures, drills, and plans needed in the event of an emergency.[2]

Other Disaster-Related Terms

  • Disaster prevention is set of activities designed to provide permanent protection from disasters. Not all disasters, particularly natural disasters, can be prevented, but the risk of loss of life and injury can be mitigated with good evacuation plans, environmental planning and design standards.
  • Disaster relief is a coordinated multi-agency response to reduce the impact of a disaster and its long-term results. Relief activities include rescue, relocation, providing food and water, preventing disease and disability, repairing vital services such as telecommunications and transport, providing temporary shelter and emergency health care.
  • Disaster recovery activities include rebuilding infrastructure, health care and rehabilitation. These should blend with development activities, such as building human resources for health and developing policies and practices to avoid similar situations in future.
  • Disaster management refers to the organization and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response and recovery in order to lessen the impact of disasters.[3]

Disaster Preparedness Education – FEMA CERT Program

The FEMA Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.[4]

Find Nearby CERT programs – locate CERT programs by zip code and inquire about disaster training and volunteer opportunities near you!



  1. Image Source: http://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan/indian-country [Accessed October 12, 2014]
  2. “H.R. 307”. United States Congress. [Retrieved September 30, 2013]
  3. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – http://www.ifrc.org/en/what-we-do/disaster-management/about-disaster-management/
  4. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program – http://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams