Updating Your Community Emergency Preparedness Plan for Pandemics
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In the past, when planning for emergencies, a global pandemic was likely not on your list. However, COVID-19 is a different kind of emergency which requires a different kind of plan. While most board members did not anticipate a pandemic as something that needed a plan before COVID-19, it’s now clear that communities need to develop a plan to address this and any future pandemics.
Read on to learn how to build a community emergency preparedness plan with a possible resurgence of coronavirus and other potential pandemics in mind.
Form a team or committee.
If you already have a committee in place for other natural disasters or emergencies, then your community is already on the right track! However, a pandemic is slightly different from a hurricane or flood, so it’s important to ensure committee members are aware that they will need to develop a new plan to combat the spread of any virus or other health threats in the future.
Just as with any other emergency preparedness plan, organization is the key to making it effective and easy to implement. Each member of the committee must understand their roles and responsibilities as they pertain to the pandemic response plan in your community.
Set goals for the community.
Setting goals for your committee keeps everyone accountable to the team and increases transparency for residents. Clear goals will also help determine how the emergency preparedness plan will work and what role committee members will play. Once goals are set, track progress, compare results with other group members and figure out what works best so everyone can meet (or exceed) their goals.
Make sure the goals your committee sets are concrete and clear, so everyone understands what is expected of them. Try using the SMART method of creating goals:
Connect with local communities and partners.
As the saying goes, “we’re all in this together.” Joining forces with other communities can provide additional help in times of crisis. Reach out to nearby communities to see if they’re able to share an example of an emergency preparedness plan for a pandemic while you’re building yours. If they don’t have one, commit to sharing your plan with them once it’s completed.
In addition to connecting with neighboring communities, get in touch with your local fire department, police department, paramedics or emergency management agency to discuss ways to prepare your community and improve its capacity to respond to and recover from any disaster.
Get any additional training needed.
Training is a critical part of emergency preparedness planning because knowing how to quickly respond in an emergency can save lives. A federal initiative called the Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) program is offered at no cost in 28 states by local fire, medical and other emergency management personnel to help your residents get prepared for emergencies.
Your management company may also offer emergency preparedness training.
“We conduct regular training seminars to help board members develop their emergency preparedness plans and learn what they should include in an emergency kit,” explains May Mokdad, regional director at FirstService Residential.
Of course, when it comes to pandemics, the crisis may stretch for days, week or months, so it’s important that your committee reads and understands federal guidance about how your community should combat the spread of the virus. A training for this type of emergency may include familiarizing yourself with how to prevent spread, how to protect yourself and others and guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing the common areas of the property.
Communicate the plan and goals to residents and staff.
A plan is only effective if the community is aware of it. Transparency and clear communication of the plan to the community is the best way to ensure the community has all the tools needed to keep themselves and their families healthy during a pandemic.
There are many ways to make sure residents receive a copy of your community’s emergency preparedness plan in the event of a pandemic. Sending out a digital copy of the plan to all residents via email will allow them to save the plan in case it’s needed in the future. Make sure that you also store the plan on your community’s website so that residents can always access the most recent version. When you update that file, make sure that residents are told that it has been revised.
“FirstService Residential Connect’s resident portal offers a place to post governing documents, announcements and other content,” Mokdad says. “I recommend that all communities include their emergency plans there.”
When new residents join your community, be sure that you include the plan with the other emergency preparedness plans and community documents in their welcome packet.
Want to learn more about preparing for other emergencies? Read up on them here:
While no one wants their community to have to deal with any emergency having an emergency preparedness plan will ensure that if the unthinkable happens, your community can address the emergency quickly and appropriately.