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What's Your Plan B? (and C, and so on?)

The following three statements are all true:

  • Most of the things we experience in our lives are outside of our control;

  • We have more control over many things in our life than we realize, and especially how we react to events in our lives; and

  • Through preparation, we can increase our ability to be ready for whatever life brings us and to take advantage of opportunities.

Recognizing the truth in each statement and taking appropriate actions is both a measure of our maturity and a key to personal resilience.

In the emergency management field, preparedness is the step between mitigation and response to an event. It is built on the foundation of identifying and doing something about them in the mitigation phase.

It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come he is ready.

― Theodore Roosevelt

Remembering that our purpose in this series is not primarily to prepare for disasters, but instead to improve our resilience and therefore our embrace in life, let’s look at the steps in this phase.

Build a plan – which for our purposes, I am defining as doing some thinking about what might happen and coming up with actions to take advantage of opportunities or deal with consequences. The goal here is that you will be able to take thoughtful actions vice simply reacting. In emergency management, most plans include an annex or separate plan on communications because of the vital nature of that component of dealing with things. Since all of us interact with others, you may want to include some communications steps in your own plans.

In case of an emergency, a plan would look at how a decision is made to evacuate or to shelter-in-place, and then identify what needs to happen in both those cases. Such plans would look at what is needed to successfully execute the plan – supplies, training, practice, logistics, etc. The same holds true for us.

As you look at your results from your mitigation, what are possible options for dealing with the risks and opportunities in your life? What do you need to turn those plans into reality? Those are the steps in your plan. What do you need to execute those steps – tools, training, new knowledge, other team members? If you are going to rely on others, talk to them about your plan and make sure they have the skills and commitment to do what is needed.

If your plan is one that can only take place in response to things you don’t control, practice and refine it. Just as first responders train and do exercises, so can you. Maintain situational awareness so you are ready to execute your plan when needed. If your plan is about something you want to do (vice a response to an event), move as quickly as possible from your plan to action. Take advantage of the support of others to make your plans into reality.

Here is a simple example. I have had an idea for a novel for years (actually, several novels). I was always someone who one day was going to write that novel. In fact, I knocked out a few chapters over the years and kept some notes during my travels on places where the novel will take place. All of that was merely a wish, not a plan. This year, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.org) and created an actual plan. I wrote an outline, told others about what I was going to do, signed up early, and moved some things off my plate to give me time to create. I am on track to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month. While it’s going to need some editing and revision, instead of wishing I would write a novel one day, by the end of the month I will have written a novel.

In a similar fashion, I have taken steps to deal with bad things that may happen in my life – everything from having a will, to having savings to deal with a significant loss, to making sure my insurance coverage is appropriate. It’s an “in case of” set of plans that are ready to be acted upon when needed. At work, when things have gone wrong, I have been able to recover quickly because I spent time planning and improving my readiness. Even when things happened that I had not planned for, I could rely on the preparation I had already done to help me set things right.

This is a key to emergency management – supplies and training focused on dealing with a hurricane work equally well for the response to a fire, a flood, or a terrorist event. In this way, you don’t have to spend all your time planning and preparing, just know that whatever improves your resilience improves your ability to take life as it comes.

There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation - veneer isn't worth anything. -- George Washington Carver

What is a plan you have been putting off? It could be for something you want to do (like writing a novel) or something you need to be ready for (like a winter storm). Take 30 minutes this week to figure out what actions would help and then do something to make yourself better prepared.

If you took some mitigation steps after the last post, you are in a better position to create a plan. It's not too late, look for some areas of risk or opportunity and think about what you can do about that.

Now, go make it happen -- Tom

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