During building safety month, the International Code Council identified four core themes highlighted throughout May. Our third weekly topic is disaster preparedness!
The International Code Council (ICC) determined four main stages to effective emergency management. These stages include disaster mitigation (i.e., trying to prevent and minimize disaster before it hits), preparedness (i.e., having a plan in place for disaster), response (i.e., activating and carrying out said emergency plan), and recovery (i.e., how to move forward post-disaster).
STEP 1… Disaster mitigation starts with being proactive rather than reactive. There is no possible way to prevent future emergencies completely; however, it is possible to minimize their effects. The ICC states that “One of the best ways for individuals and communities to mitigate disasters is to build using the most up-to-date, modern building codes. The adoption, implementation, and enforcement of building codes provide you, your family, and your community protection in a natural disaster.” Effective May 1, 2022, the City of Southlake adopts the ICC 2021 Building Codes. The purpose of these codes is to protect the public from disasters such as fire, structural collapse, and general deterioration. These codes are essential for personal safety, the economic well-being of the community, conservation of energy, and protecting future buyers by ensuring reasonable assurance that the structure being bought is safe.
STEP 2… Preparing for disaster before it happens can immensely increase you, your family, and your home’s chances of survival. You can do several things to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Preparation for a natural disaster is twofold, readying the house and preparing the occupants. Homeowners can prepare by protecting windows, elevating appliances, familiarizing themselves with the location of the main switches for water, gas, and electricity, and creating or adding a safe room/storm shelter. Homeowners can also make sure that their structure is covered under an insurance policy that supports the type of damage due to the region’s most common natural disasters. The most experienced natural disasters in Southlake are tornados and flooding. The City of Southlake will activate its outdoor warning sirens when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning if a tornado or funnel cloud is reported by SKYWARN storm spotters, if sustained winds exceed 70 MPH, and if reports of hail are more significant than 1.25 inches. A WATCH means favorable conditions for a tornado, while a WARNING means that a tornado is occurring or will occur soon and to take shelter at once.
Creating a disaster plan for a natural disaster is a great way to be prepared for the unexpected. The first step is to determine the risk of the emergency and decide on the best way to proceed. Build an evacuation plan and route with your family before the crisis and be ready to execute it. Discuss with your family how to contact each other if you are separated at the time of the emergency. Encourage each family member to sign up for your local emergency alert systems to keep up to date on risks in your community. Keep an up-to-date emergency kit with enough food and water for each family member and supplies for your pets to last up to 7 days. Make copies of important documents such as insurance policies, the marriage license, the deed to your home, a home inventory list, and personal identification documents. Be sure to store documents in a fireproof/waterproof container and keep encrypted digital copies. Regularly review and update your disaster plan, evacuation route, and emergency shelter location with your family. Know when sheltering in place is appropriate during a disaster. Ultimately, planning for the worst but hoping for the best is crucial.
STEP 3… For citizens and visitors, your response to a natural disaster is physically implementing the disaster plan that you have previously created. The City of Southlake has a team in a place called Ready Southlake to respond to the community after a natural disaster. Ready Southlake comprises local emergency management, the city, and local faith-based organizations.
These three entities communicate with one another regarding each of their capabilities and resources to utilize each organization’s strengths better when coordinating disaster efforts to serve the community’s immediate needs. Faith-based organizations that belong to Ready Southlake are vital to providing emergency notifications in natural disasters to their members and be a critical asset to the entire community. Ready Southlake is also used to assess the community’s unmet needs and determine how and who can provide the quickest alleviation of that need.
STEP 4… After a disaster of any kind, returning to normal is never easy. This recovery time offers the opportunity to provide an even safer environment for your home, family, and even community. Updating and rebuilding following the most recent building codes is a worthwhile investment. These changes can surely decrease and prevent injury and loss from future disasters by up to 25%.
For more information about the disaster preparedness for the City of Southlake, please visit the Emergency Management page on our website.