Recently, our nation has seen a series of unforgivable events over this past year. From Hurricane Harvey, the wildfires in California, the Las Vegas shooting, and most recently, the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, we have had devastation impact our communities. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Emergency management is the managerial function charged with creating the framework within which communities reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters.” But what does this mean for our local communities?
Most of the time, when the term disaster preparedness is brought up, many people think about natural disasters. While they are not wrong, they often forget about the many other forms of disasters, including man made (BP Oil Spill), terrorism (9/11), and weather emergencies. But just how well do people understand the importance of preparedness, especially college students?
When students attend college for the first time, most of them are moving away from home and into their own dorm or apartment. What most universities fail to provide are important safety precautions for students to take in case of emergencies. This could include emergency routes, shelters on campus, emergency contact numbers and the local emergency management agency within their area. Student preparedness is something that every institution needs to provide. Students are living alone for the first time in a new and unfamiliar area. Having access to this information is key to providing the proper safety precautions. If students do not have access, how will they know what to do in an emergency situation at their university?
Millersville University’s Dr. Duane Haglegans has been involved in the emergency services for over 30 years. When asked, “what is one thing you want Millersville students to be aware of while attending in terms of disaster preparedness?” his response was very eye opening. “Students and all citizens, need to take responsibility for their personal preparedness. We all need to be alert and aware of what is happening around us, both from a natural hazard and technological hazard standpoint. The most important thing that a student can have is an evacuation/communication plan. If you have to evacuate campus where are you going? If you need to communicate with friends/families and roommates, and there is NO technology, how will you communicate?” This points out the major flaw to most universities. Most students do not know the first thing about their universities' evacuation plan. How will universities serve to protect students if they do not provide the proper information in the first place?
Emergency management should be a core requirement for all students within their first semester of college. A mandatory emergency management course will not only educate students on emergency management, but it will also benefit each student's understanding of disaster preparedness. What many students and universities fail to realize is that disasters are inevitable. There is no way to predict when and where the next disaster will strike. What we can do is educate and prepare our communities for emergency preparedness, response and recovery. With each community actively practicing emergency management precautions, we will be able to recover faster as a nation.
*All images courtesy of Pinterest