Disaster Preparedness

PROMOTING PREPAREDNESS FOR IOWANS

With a shared community vision, strategic planning that prioritizes health and coordinated implementation, disaster recovery can lead to communities that are healthier, more livable places for current and future generations to grow and thrive – and better prepared for future adversities.

This is a priority because…

  • Iowans should have at least a three-day supply of food and water stored in their home, but many do not.
  • Disasters exacerbate existing health disparities while increasing health needs.  
  • With a shared healthy community vision, strategic planning that prioritizes health and coordinated implementation, disaster recovery can result in communities that are healthier, more livable places to grow and thrive while being more resilient in the face of future disasters. 

In the past 11 years, several Iowa communities have experienced 100-year floods, 500-year floods, incredibly strong tornados, and other weather impacts leading to dozens of Presidential declarations of disasters. The continuing onslaught of disasters makes it imperative that our communities plan for disaster recovery through multisectoral collaboration. 

When disasters strike, they don’t just impact individuals, they require a community-based response. It is essential to increase communication and collaboration amongst community partners, such as hospitals, law enforcement, emergency management services, religious organizations, municipal planners, and more so that recovery efforts support long-term community health and so resources can be leveraged across sectors.

Emergency preparedness too often falls to the bottom of the list for community members who already face health disparities and increased community need; but it is these citizens who most often are the most severely impacted by the consequences of disasters. To address the needs of all community members in a disaster, public health professionals in the state need to advocate for a formal preparedness process that includes:

  • Visioning: utilize disaster recovery as an opportunity to advance a healthier, more resilient, and sustainable community
  • Assessment: conduct a community health and hazard vulnerability assessment to identify gaps between the current status and the desired state to inform goals and priorities
  • Planning: incorporate health considerations into planning and ensure decision makers understand potential health implications of their decisions
  • Implementation: use recovery resources in creative and synergistic ways so we can maximize community health outcomes through cross-jurisdictional sharing

There is an urgent need for a health in all policies (HiaP) approach to disaster planning, ensuring public health professionals, municipal leaders and community members come together to adequately plan to respond to the short- and long-term health effects of all citizens during and in the time after a disaster.