Remember Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs?
What does that mean for me? Well, Mazlow developed a pyramid of human needs that must be met in order for an individual to achieve self-actualization - completeness or satisfaction. This important list of priorities becomes paramount as we make efforts to meet people's needs before, during, and in the aftermath of disasters. The pyramid works like this: Starting at the base of the pyramid, each need or level of needs must be met in order from bottom to top for an individual to progress toward a state of healthy psychology. The base physiological needs (shown at the bottom of the pyramid) must be met in order for the person to move up to the next level of self-actualization or satisfaction. Then that person will begin to desire safety needs to be met... then belonging... then esteem... and finally self-actualization. In emergencies, we need to prepare, provide and protect resources to meet each of these needs in priority order.
We must acknowledge that each of these needs are important. Food, water and shelter alone are not adequate. We need safety and belonging to maintain personal balance. We desire esteem and self-actualization to be personally (psychologically) complete. Disaster planning, at its core, is the process of preparing these resources, protecting these resources, and providing these resources in and after a disaster. Let's take a quick look at how these ideas might fit together with some practical application of disaster planning.
Food and water: Keeping a stock of bottled water and ready to eat canned food in your home, your car, or your office desk drawer may help prepare you to concentrate on meeting other needs in a crisis like meeting up with family or leading a group to safety.
Security: There are certainly simple preparations (like flashlights and emergency kits or earthquake mitigation) that may keep you in your home after an earthquake or storm, even when utilities go out. Familiar surroundings, a secure building, and keeping your family or friends together provide invaluable benefit to disaster stricken victims.
Belonging: Once you are safe, you want to know that others are as well. An effective family emergency plan and a detailed communication plan will help you work toward knowing others are safe as well. A great plan may even result in everyone meeting together more quickly.
Esteem: Knowing what to do in a disaster builds self-confidence. (This is why adults and children should complete disaster drills at school AND at home.) Leading, helping and supporting others to make safe decisions during a crisis event may lead to significant personal achievement and self-respect.
Self-actualization: Looking over the tip of the pyramid, you'll see that all the needs below this point are foundational to this level of self-actualization. You also notice that morality, problem solving and creative thinking are located at this high level. Now, I'm not saying that you can't solve problems until you reach this point, but I suspect that as the foundational needs are met, we are free and empowered to create better, far-sighted solutions. Isn't that what we want to do for our ourselves, families and our communities?