Disaster preparedness is becoming a centrally important issue for cities around the world as climate-related disasters become more common. Many major US cities have released emergency response plans to prepare for extreme weather and other disasters both natural and man-made. However, the most effective forms of emergency preparedness are often hyper-local, focused on the needs of an individual community or neighborhood. This ethos has been put into practice in New York’s Lower East Side, where community partners came together as the LESReady! Coalition to create the LESReady! Disaster Plan, a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan focused on the unique needs of this tight knit urban village in the heart of New York. The plan is highly visual, with graphics and images throughout, and is focused on specific contingencies in the case of various disaster levels.
The plan focuses on the four core areas that the coalition addresses: Preparedness, Communications, Short- to Mid-Term Resiliency and Community Response and is updated annually. The plan serves as a model for other neighborhoods and cities to prepare for disasters partially because of its accessibility. With its clear language and image heavy instructions it provides necessary information without jargon that wouldn’t be usable by ordinary business owners, community groups and citizens in the Lower East Side. It also provides for each phase of a disaster response in great detail, meaning that when a disaster does arrive, member organizations of the LESReady! Coalition will know what to do.
Natural and man-made disasters can be devastating to a community, but the truth is that many neighborhoods have important resources already available to them through businesses, nonprofits, and residents. The more that communities can lift themselves up in a disaster situation, the less damage there will be. In order to utilize their own resources, community initiatives like the LESReady! Coalition are creating guides and reports so that in the event of a disaster, the community has already been mobilized and is prepared to care for itself. Disaster preparedness can and should happen on a broad scale, but it starts local.