Health Hub: Emergency Preparedness and Response

Photo of document titled "Emergency Response Plan"

The union can play an active role in employer emergency preparedness and response plans. Disasters and unplanned emergencies affect not only where we live but also where we work. Most school districts, hospitals, state agencies and other AFT employers do have emergency preparedness and response plans in place, but far too few develop and implement these plans with input from our members. In many cases, local leaders never even see their employer’s plan until a disaster strikes. It’s important for local and state affiliates to have a response plan for their own operations in the event of an emergency or disaster as well.

When active violence occurs, seconds count, and you can't always wait for EMS to arrive. AVERT gives you the confidence and tools you need to assess and react quickly in an active shooter situation, and how to apply stop the bleed practices during life-threatening bleeding situations. 
The content in AVERT has been specifically adapted for the public by medical and law enforcement experts. Unlike other training programs that focus solely on run, hide, fight techniques, AVERT uses a dynamic method to teach proactive awareness, how to react and protect yourself and others in a violent situation, and how to stop the bleed of severe injuries that are often a result of these occurrences.

  • Know what disasters could affect your area, how to get emergency alerts, and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate.
  • Wildfire Smoke Factsheet
  • EPA Information on Wildfires
  • Sign up to receive air quality email notices for your ZIP code.
  • OSHA Information on Wildfires
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an excellent health and safety section on natural disasters and severe weather, including earthquakes, extreme heat, landslides and mudslides, lightning, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes, wildfires and winter weather.
  • Offers a vast section on all types of possible emergencies, such as active shooter situations, bioterrorism, chemical emergencies, cybersecurity, drought, earthquakes, explosions, extreme heat, floods, hazardous materials incidents, home fires, household chemical emergencies, hurricanes, landslides and debris flow, nuclear blast/power plants, pandemics, power outages, radiological dispersion devices, severe weather, snowstorms and extreme cold, space weather, thunderstorms and lightning, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes and wildfires.
  • New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s 2013 Emergency Action Plan: This is a sample policy for public employees from the state of New York’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. The plan details what to do during an evacuation of a building, contains the fire prevention plan and provides specific responses to a variety of other possible hazards, including explosions, threats of violence, power failures, flooding/water damage and weather emergencies. 

When disasters overwhelm state and local resources, the federal government can step in to help. All emergencies and disasters are local in nature, but sometimes emergencies and disasters overwhelm state and local capacity to respond, and the federal government is called in to help. In those cases, the Federal Emergency Management Agency steps in to support people in need and first responders.
Navigating FEMA can be overwhelming and frustrating, and members may call on their union for help. Unions need to know how to work with FEMA and what resources it provides to those responding to and recovering from a disaster.

Resources to help disaster victims get back on their feet. After a disaster or crisis, people may feel alone and isolated. There are numerous resources available to help people through difficult times, including community programs and religious organizations that help people in need. Some things to consider:

You may have members who are involved with these types of organizations and who can act as liaisons for communication and support activities. Your union could establish more formal relationships with these groups to build solidarity and fellowship with each other.

  • 2-1-1 Disaster and Emergency Assistance: Many 2-1-1 locations partner with the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and community emergency management programs to provide answers, services and relief in times of natural or man-made disasters. 2-1-1 offers up-to-date information on road closures, evacuation routes, shelters, disaster relief assistance and recovery resources. It also may provide information on disaster-related volunteer opportunities and relief efforts so you can put your time and talent to work in the areas where they’re needed most.
  • National Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster (VOAD): This website provides information on the National VOAD’s member organizations, which share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle—preparation, response and recovery—to help disaster survivors and their communities. All organizations have service-oriented missions and include volunteer engagement as a key component of their operations.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: SAMHSA has a hotline for disaster distress information. Call 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, use your preferred relay service to call 800-985-5990. Spanish services are also available.

Resources to help children and adults cope in the aftermath of a disaster. The AFT cares about the well-being and health of our members and the communities they serve. Disaster can strike anywhere, and no one should feel they have to go it alone. Here are some easily accessible resources to help educators, health professionals, and those in public service talk to children and parents in the aftermath of a disaster. You will also find easy-to-access public mental health resources that can ease the burden of recovering from an unspeakable event. These resources are here for you and the people you serve. Please use them as part of your personal healing process and as a set of tools to help others heal as well.