Disaster Preparedness Mirrors Military Readiness, Official Says


The Defense Department takes pride in its readiness to defend the nation against military threats, and also in its role as a partner in emergency and disaster response, a DoD official said.

In an interview with DoD News on the April observance of the “America’s PrepareAthon!” campaign, Robert G. Salesses, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense integration and defense support of civil authorities, talked about the importance of being prepared for unexpected events such as storms.

Annual preparedness campaigns in April and September aim to increase individual and organizational preparedness, he said, adding that such preparedness is “synonymous with military readiness.”

A grass roots, national campaign through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “America’s PrepareAthon!” involves all federal agencies, state and local governments, the private sector and individuals, Salesses explained.

DoD’s Important Role

DoD wants its people to realize, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work wrote in a recent DoD-wide memo, that they have an “important role to play in bolstering our preparedness for hazards of all types -- from hurricanes to wildfires -- to strengthen our collective security and resilience.”

And, “safeguarding U.S. security depends on ensuring the strength of our 3.2 million-strong workforce” of military and civilian employees,” he wrote.

“A priority of this department,” Work continued, “is focusing on the well-being and safety of each member of our workforce and their families, so that we can continue to safeguard U.S. security.”

The preparedness campaign addresses emergencies and disasters from the community to the national level. Community preparedness can take form in neighborhood hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises, according to the PrepareAthon! website.

Observances are Public Reminders

While most people might not give much thought to staying prepared for emergencies and disasters, Salesses said, the nation’s two monthlong observances serve as reminders so people can be ready for the unexpected every day of the year.

“It gives folks the opportunity to take a step back and consider hazards they may encounter, and [to] begin to build a plan,” Salesses said.

Preparedness mainly focuses on natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes and hurricanes, he noted, adding that different parts of the world give rise to different types of storms. Other disasters could be “man-made” occurrences that can often strike with little notice, he said.

Know Your Community

It’s important for people to know their community, especially if they are new to a region, and to familiarize themselves with local potential hazards, Salesses said.

“It’s very important people understand what those hazards are and formulate actions to prepare to deal with such events,” Salesses said.

Being prepared for hazards and other unforeseen emergencies on an individual level is similar to the military’s planning, training and exercising for mission preparedness, Salesses said.

“You need to do both and do both well,” he added.

Website Resources

Preparation tips and other resources are abundant in communities, on social media and online, Salesses said. The Army, Navy and Air Force also offer preparedness websites.

Many websites offer preparation lists, which suggest emergency supplies to keep at work and home, he said. Such home kits recommend sufficient supplies for every person and pet in a household, including first-aid supplies, food, water, medicines and important papers to sustain families until the emergency passes.

“It’s the simple things that often are overlooked, such as signing up for local warnings and alerts,” Salesses said. It’s also essential to have good communication plans to get the word out at work and to reach family members, he added.

“The investments we’ve made as a department to prepare ourselves for military missions is a direct link to what we can do to prepare our families and workforce to deal with potential hazards,” he said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)