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Difference Between Preparedness and Mitigation

Preparedness and Mitigation

What is Preparedness?

Preparedness refers to the degree to which a household, community, nation, or other organization is prepared for a crisis. The term preparedness is used often in the context of preparing for extreme weather events and other natural disturbances.

Preparedness involves both strategy and resources. The necessary resources include anything that will be needed to respond to a crisis. This can include food and water to last three days, batteries for flashlights, mobile phones for communication, and supplies for sheltering-in-place. The supplies necessary will depend on the situation, such as whether evacuation or shelter-in-place order is issued.  

In addition to supplies and equipment, preparedness also involves planning and strategy. Most disaster response agencies advise that organizations have a disaster response plan. It is not always possible to plan when a crisis is already underway. For example, families are advised to have designated safe-places and rallying points outside their house to meet if they are not able to get to their actual house. Families are also advised to have designated rooms in the house to go to in the event of a shelter-in-place order. A shelter-in-place order is issued when it is safer for people to remain indoors than to evacuate. Shelter-in-place orders are most often issued during extreme weather events, incidents involving hazardous materials, and dangerous law enforcement situations.

Preparedness is more complicated for cities and nations, but the same principle applies. Cities and nations need to have both the resources and a strategy in the event of a crisis. Cities should have adequate resources for medical personnel, first-responders, and for civilians. They should also have a plan for what to do to protect the lives of their citizens, whether that involves evacuation or sheltering-in-place.

Preparedness is important since disasters can happen at any time and the more prepared an individual, organization, or community is for a disaster, the less heavily they will be impacted by the disaster.

What is Mitigation?

Mitigation refers to pre-emptive measures taken to reduce the negative impacts of a crisis or disaster. Mitigation does not completely prevent a disaster necessarily, but it does lessen the severity of the disaster both before it starts and during the ordeal. There are many types of mitigation. 

Climate change mitigation, for example, refers to mitigation measures to lessen the impact of climate change resulting from anthropogenic carbon emissions. Climate change mitigation measures include investment in renewable sources of energy that are carbon neutral, such as wind and solar power. The purpose of this investment is to reduce reliance on carbon intensive energy sources, such as petroleum and natural gas. 

Other types of mitigation include disaster mitigation. One type of disaster mitigation is buildings that are designed to be earthquake resistant in areas with high earthquake risk. One form of disaster mitigation which has been the subject of recent discussion is mitigating a potential asteroid impact. 

Mitigation of an asteroid impact is being investigated by NASA and other space agencies. Mitigation strategies include concepts for asteroid deflection missions, impact effects studies, and planning emergency response procedures. An example of an emergency response procedure might be evacuating a city that is likely to be hit by an approaching city-killing asteroid.

Another form of crisis mitigation, which has become very common with the emergence of the 2019-2020 COVID-19 pandemic, is disease mitigation. The goal of disease mitigation is to slow or prevent the spread of an outbreak. For COVID-19, many countries have implemented mass-quarantines, including the closure of all nonessential businesses and shelter-in-place orders that people remain in their homes except for specific reasons, such as to get groceries or to seek medical care.

Another mitigation strategy that has been used is social distancing where people are required to not gather into large groups and remain at least 6 feet, or about 2 meters, apart in public. This is done to prevent the spread of the virus which is known to spread very easily from person to person. 

Similarities between Preparedness and Mitigation

Preparedness and mitigation both involve response to crises and are both concerned with preventing the worse consequences of a crisis or disaster.

Differences between Preparedness and Mitigation

Although mitigation and preparedness are similar terms, there are important differences. These differences include the following.

  • Preparedness refers to being prepared to respond to a disaster, whereas mitigation also seeks to either prevent the disaster or lessen its impact.
  • Preparedness can only be enacted prior to a disaster, whereas mitigation can be implemented before a disaster starts or during the disaster.
  • Preparedness is primarily passive in that the purpose is to shield oneself from a disaster, whereas mitigation is active in also trying to change the severity of the disaster.
  • Preparedness is anticipation of a particular event, whereas, mitigation is an ongoing strategy

Preparedness vs. Mitigation: Comparison Chart 

Summary of Preparedness vs. Mitigation

Preparedness refers to the ability of an individual or organization to respond to a crisis. It involves both stockpiling the necessary resources and having a strategy to protect life and property during the crisis or disaster. Preparedness is important in response to natural crises, such as extreme weather events and incidents involving hazardous materials. It is also important in responding to societal crises, such as a law enforcement situation. Mitigation refers to strategies or methods used to either prevent a crisis or reduce the consequences of the crisis. Examples of mitigation include climate change mitigation, natural disaster mitigation, asteroid impact mitigation, and disease mitigation among many other types. Preparedness and mitigation are similar in that they are both responding to a crisis. They differ in that preparedness involves being able to act to prevent loss of life and property during a crisis, whereas mitigation also involves either preventing the crisis from happening in the first place or lessening its effects when the crisis occurs. Also, preparedness must be enacted before a crisis and must be re-established after each crisis. Resources must be re-stocked, and strategies may need to be reformulated if they proved sub-optimal in the last crisis. With mitigation, it is best to initiate before a crisis, but mitigation can also theoretically be initiated in the midst of an ongoing crisis. It is not necessarily too late to mitigate a crisis if it is already happening, but it is too late to prepare for a crisis that is already happening. Furthermore, preparedness anticipates a particular event, such as a hurricane or tornado, whereas mitigation is an ongoing strategy which may involve responding to many different events or crises.

Caleb Strom

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References :


[0]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/7249/13980534515_a0745a2221_z.jpg

[1]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NRC_Mitigation_Strategies_Infographic_(13589521543).jpg

[2] “How Do We Mitigate the Hazard of Possible Asteroid Impacts?” NASA, 16 Mar. 2015 https://www.nasa.gov/content/asteroid-grand-challenge/mitigate/how-do-we-mitigate-the-hazard-of-possible-asteroid-impacts

[3]“Introduction to Mitigation.” United Nations Climate Change, 2020, https://unfccc.int/topics/mitigation/the-big-picture/introduction-to-mitigation

[4]Levenson, Eric, and Kevin Flower. “What is and isn't allowed during a 'shelter-in-place' order.” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/17/us/shelter-in-place-coronavirus-trnd/index.html. Accessed 7 April 2020.

[5]“Preparedness, Are you Ready?” Office of Emergency Management, 2018, https://www.houstonoem.org/preparedness-are-you-ready/.

[6]“Prevent Getting Sick.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 Apr. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html.

[7]Wright, Robin. “How Much of the World Will Be Quarantined by the Coronavirus?” The New Yorker, 9 Mar. 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-much-of-the-world-will-be-quarantined-by-the-coronavirus. Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.

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