Over the last several decades, I’ve seen and experienced the impact of climate change on communities I’ve worked with. To be clear, we didn’t call it that and even now we probably wouldn’t refer to it as climate change. But hindsight being what it is it seems clear that climate change was, and is, playing a role in disaster planning and response. We often refer to them as natural hazards, but most emergency managers know that the impacts of those hazards are anything but natural.
Let’s dig in a bit into how emergency managers can meet the challenge of climate change by addressing the following areas:
- What the impacts of climate change on plans and procedures
- How can we adapt our plans
- The challenges we face
- How public education plays a role, and
- Lessons learned
What are the impacts of climate change on emergency management plans and procedures?
Increased risk of extreme weather events, changes in sea levels, increased spread of disease, and more. These increased risks present new challenges for emergency management plans and procedures.
First, increased risks require increased preparedness. This means that emergency management officials must be more deliberate in our planning and practice in order to be ready for whatever climate change might bring.
Second, climate change will require new or revised procedures for responding to emergencies. For example, increased flooding will necessitate new evacuation procedures, and increased wildfires will require new protocols for firefighters. As climate change continues to impact the world around us, it is important that emergency management officials are prepared to adapt our plans and procedures accordingly.
How can emergency managers adapt our plans to account for these impacts?
Emergency managers are responsible for developing plans to protect communities in the event of a natural disaster or other emergencies. However, as climate change continues to cause more extreme weather events, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict when and where these events will occur. As a result, emergency managers must be proactive in their planning, incorporating foresight and flexibility into their strategies.
One way to do this is to practice scenario-based planning, which involves considering different possible scenarios and preparing responses accordingly. Another key ingredient is maintaining a strong connection with the community. This ensures that emergency managers are aware of changes that may affect the community’s vulnerability to disasters and can adjust their plans accordingly. By adapting our plans to account for the impacts of climate change, emergency managers can help ensure that their communities are prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws their way.
What challenges will we face, and how can we overcome them?
A common challenge people face when trying to improve their skills is a lack of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is defined as “a highly structured activity designed, typically by a teacher, for the explicit purpose of improving specific aspects of an individual’s performance” (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993).
Deliberate practice requires both attention and awareness. For example, if you are trying to improve your writing skills, you need to be aware of the areas you need to work on and be deliberate in your practice. This means setting aside time to write, studying different writing techniques, and actively seeking feedback from others.
Another common challenge people face is poor communication. This can happen when people need more clarity about their goals or when they do not ask for help when they need it. To overcome this challenge, it is important to be clear about what you want to achieve and to be willing to ask for help when you need it.
FEMA says, “The challenges posed by climate change, such as more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding and higher sea levels could significantly alter the types and magnitudes of hazards faced by communities and the emergency management professionals serving them. Emergency managers should adapt to the impacts of climate change.”
What role do public education and engagement play in emergency management planning for climate change adaptation?’
As climate change continues to impact our planet, it is increasingly vital for individuals and communities to be prepared for extreme weather events. While there are many actions that can be taken to reduce the overall effects of climate change, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigation efforts must be accompanied by plans for adaptation and resilience.
Public education and engagement are essential components of effective emergency management planning for climate change adaptation. By raising awareness of the risks posed by climate change and providing information on how to prepare for and respond to extreme weather events, public education can help to increase community resilience in the face of a changing climate.
In addition, engaging the public in planning processes can help to ensure that plans are responsive to the needs of the community and that they reflect the values and priorities of those who will be most affected by climate change. Ultimately, public education and engagement play a vital role in helping communities to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Now, you and I both know, this is still difficult to talk about in some spaces. We may need to change the way we speak about it or simply share the impact of it rather than the cause. No matter the way, we must engage with our communities about the increasing severity of disaster and their role in their own protection.
Are there any other considerations that need to be taken into account when planning for emergencies in the context of climate change?’
As our climate changes, we must adapt our emergency planning accordingly. That means not only being aware of the new risks posed by extreme weather and other environmental factors but also taking steps to mitigate those risks. One way to do that is by investing in technology and infrastructure that can withstand more extreme conditions. Infrastructure and civic technology development are two major areas we will likely see increases in collaboration and investment.
Another is to foster a sense of community and cooperation so that we can rely on our neighbors in times of need. And, of course, it is always important to remember our past lessons and learn from our mistakes. By taking these things into account, we can ensure that our emergency plans are up to the challenge of climate change.
What lessons have been learned from past emergencies that can help inform future planning efforts?’
When it comes to preparing for emergencies, we can learn a lot from our past mistakes. One of the most important lessons is the need to involve residents in the planning process.
After all, residents are the ones who will be most affected by a disaster, and they often have valuable insight into the hazards and risks faced by their community. By engaging residents in the planning process, we can ensure that future plans are more responsive to the needs of those who will be most affected by an emergency.
Another lesson that has been learned from past emergencies is the importance of building a mindset of preparedness. Too often, people only think about preparing for a disaster after it has already struck. This can lead to panic and confusion, making it challenging to take effective action. By contrast, those who have a mindset of preparedness are more likely to remain calm and focused in the face of an emergency, and they are better able to take actions that will help them weather the storm.
By learning from our past mistakes, we can make sure that future emergency plans are more responsive and effective. By involving residents in the planning process and building a mindset of preparedness, we can make our communities more resilient in the face of disaster.
Climate change is going to impact every single one of us, whether we like it or not.
And that means that emergency management planning must adapt as well. But how?
This blog post looked at some of the ways emergency managers can take climate change into account. We also looked at the challenges they might face and how to overcome them. Finally, we considered the role public engagement plays in all of this.
Are there other things you think need to be taken into account? I’d love to hear from you – drop a comment, and let’s connect.