Emergency Management is the continuous process by which all individuals, groups and communities manage hazards in an effort to avoid their devastation. In the city of Tacoma, emergency management is built upon the following five phases: mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
In the Mitigation Phase, steps to eliminate or reduce disaster damages affecting the City and its citizens are taken. Strategies to be considered are removing or eliminating the hazard, reducing or limiting its amount or size, segregating the hazard from that which needs to be protected, reducing the likelihood of the hazard occurring, controlling its rate of release, establishing hazard warning/communication procedures, and establishing structural and non-structural protective measures. Examples of mitigation include activities such as retrofitting buildings for earthquakes, elevating levies around flood-prone homes and businesses, locating development outside of flood zones, and creating wildfire buffers around developments in vulnerable areas.
In the Prevention Phase, actions to avoid an incident or to intervene to stop an incident from occurring are the goal. There is also a focus on deterrence operations and surveillance systems to stop an incident before it happens.
In the Preparedness Phase, Emergency Managers develop plans of action for when disaster strikes. Goals of Preparedness include actions taken in advance of an emergency to develop operational capabilities and to facilitate an effective response when the event does occur. Strategies to be considered are assessing and taking inventory of resources (personnel, equipment, and facilities), planning, training, exercises, and developing procedures. In our community, the plan that guides these activities is the City of Tacoma Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.
This is also the phase that individuals and groups within our community should prepare to lessen the impacts of a disaster. It is important to observe the distinction between a disaster and emergency. An emergency is an event that requires response from service providers like Police and Fire. While potentially devastating to some members of the community, the event is manageable by these emergency service providers. However, a disaster is when an event is so traumatic that it disables the emergency response system from being able to respond to the event. This is why it is so important that individuals in the community take steps to be prepared for three to seven days without help in the event of disaster.
In the Response Phase, actions are taken immediately before, during, or directly after an emergency occurs to save lives, minimize damage, and to enhance the recovery activities. Activities include notification and activation of personnel and services, continuity of government, establishing data and voice communications, dissemination of public information, evacuation or sheltering in place, ensuring personnel identification and accountability, mass care, providing for mental and physical well-being of affected individuals, and conducting/managing Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) for departments and supporting agency responsibilities as outlined in the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.
The goal of the Recovery Phase is to return the community's systems and activities to normal. Tasks in this phase include restoring organization and staffing, restoring utilities, debris removal, restoration and salvage, maintaining essential records, assessing damages, public and employee information, and identifying recovery funding. Long-term recovery includes restoring economic activity and rebuilding community facilities and housing. This also includes rebuilding in such a way as to mitigate damages should the same disaster strike again.