High Alert Institute



An All-Hazards Approach to Being Disaster Ready In and Out of the Water

by | May 11, 2005

Disasters can strike at any time, anywhere. So whether it’s a natural disaster, like a tsunami or hurricane, or a man-made one, like a bad gas mix, equipment failure or toxic spill, you and your facility need to be ready. You can’t wait until the actual event. You need an all-hazards approach plan now.
Due to standardized training, two rescuers who have never met and live in different parts of the country can perform C.P.R. together to resuscitate someone. After 9/11, it was determined that the same training model needed to apply to disaster medicine. Unfortunately, 9/11 illustrated that various organizations and responding agencies operate completely differently in response to the same problem. As a result, we saw a marked increase in the number of casualties.
In response, the CDC, Department of Homeland Security, several large universities, and the National Disaster Life Support Education Consortium came together and developed four courses: Advanced Disaster Life support (ADLS™), Basic Disaster Life Support (BDLS™), Core Disaster Life Support (CDLS™), and Hospital Disaster Life Support (HDLS™). Based on an all-hazards approach, this family of courses forms the new common shared skills set for all healthcare. In addition to being familiar will all four of these levels, you also need to become D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R. R.E.A.D.Y. Each letter of the mnemonic stands for a key item in your disaster preparation checklist.
Go through each letter and take the necessary action. This is not something you will complete in an hour, but you do need to start now—long before any disaster is forecasted. When you can check all these items off your list, you health care facility will be as prepared as possible for any disaster that may come your way.
Let’s start with D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R.:

D is Detect
Detect your own vulnerabilities and those of your community. You have geographic vulnerabilities and competitive vulnerabilities. For example, if you live in a flood-prone area, you are vulnerable. If your business is in a low-lying building, a flood will affect you first. But if you are positioned up on top of a hill, you can be fairly certain you won’t need to be the first to pack sand bags around your office. You have now detected a competitive advantage.
Detect your community’s needs too. Consider how your business can help. If you run a filling station, fire rescue and emergency services will need to supplement their “in-house” ability to charge breathing apparatuses (SCBA’s), EMS Oxygen and even SCUBA tanks. How can you help them? Do you have generators to allow you to run your fill station? If so, you’ve just detected a unique advantage you can offer to the community in the event of an emergency. Become part of your community’s disaster plan.
Detect that there is an event coming or that an event has occurred. Then activate your disaster plan. Make sure your plan is realistic.

I is Incident Command
The definition of disaster is when need exceeds available resources. When diving, the only thing not in short supply is the variety of limited resources. Every community has one person in command in case of a disaster. That person, the “incident commander,” has a set of responsibilities to delegate that filters down through an established structure. Find out who is in that incident command position now and ask how you could help become a part of that structure. For example, if you are a provider of heavy equipment, you can make arrangements for your trucks, cranes, and earth movers to be at the county’s disposal to help with cleanup—you have now become part of the emergency team. If you wait until disaster strikes, your offers of help may be too late. Do it now.
You also need your own “incident commander.” This person should not be the dive master or shop owner, these people should be ensuring the smooth and safe operation of the dive and the business. Therefore, your incident commander should be someone who can answer to that outside person in charge of the disaster for the entire community. Choose the right person for the job.

S is Scene Safety
When you are on the water or under it, you know where your safety vulnerabilities are. If you have a regulator or B/C failure you know how it will affect you, your buddy and you know what to do. Does your business or your family deserve less? If you were to lose power or cellular phone service, how will that affect your business? Be prepared. If you own a jewelry store and your alarms malfunction, you will be a target for looters. Let local law enforcement know that if the power is off, your business will be vulnerable. Ask them to do an extra pass in front of your business in the event of a disaster. To encourage them to keep an extra close eye on your business, offer your services now—let them park their cruisers in your parking lot or use your restroom facilities when they are out on patrol. Also determine what impact the event had on the structure you are in. Is it safe to remain? If not, you must relocate.

A is Assess
Assess your situation—either your current one or the potential one during a disaster. If keeping your business open is not safe, or if your employees have urgent personal or family needs during a crisis, you need to take responsibility for that and be realistic. Assess whether it is safe to continue to be open and ask yourself if your employees have needs that are outside of the business. If so, make allowances for those. You don’t have to stay open 24/7 or put yourself or your employees at risk. Letting your employees know that their personal needs are important will gain you their trust and loyalty.
On a dive you know to assess your situation—and reassess it again and again—as you act and before you act. You know what you’re getting yourself into. When you get wet, you plan how are you going to get in and get out and how long you are going to be down. In a disaster, what else do you need? Once you’ve assessed your situation, your resources, and your needs, then you can act.

S is Support
Support works both ways. The easiest way to get support during an emergency situation is to give it as part of the support team. All emergency response managers are taught to reach in their community and make pre-arrangements for the resources they need. These are called mutual aid agreements. Approach the emergency response manager and say, “I can provide you the following things. Will that be of help?” You will most likely get a yes, especially if you do this ahead of time. You will be written into the county’s plan. Be prepared to deliver whatever you promise. An advantage to you is that when you have a need, you are already known to the people with the power. And since you’ve already detected what kind of support you’ll need, you can ask for it in advance. Regularly check that everyone is still in agreement. The time to be arranging your support and your help is not when the disaster occurs; it’s now.

T is Triage and Treatment
Triage means to do the most good for the most people with limited resources. Even if you’ve been the best person and the most helpful to your community, if your needs are minor you will have to wait longer than someone whose needs are greater. The person with the greatest need will get help first—no matter when they ask. Adopt the same principle with your business resources. If your business supplies something that will be in great demand—like plywood, or gasoline, or drinking water—you may have to ration based on the greatest need. Even though it may be a hard decision to make, you are really benefiting the community.
In the event of a dive disaster, use your resources as wisely as possible, including the air, drinking water, food and energy. Your dive buddies and even the dive masters are going to have to be assessed regularly as to whether they need a break.

E is Evacuate
If you are called to evacuate, go. Orders to evacuate usually come in stages. When they tell the group you belong to that it’s time to evacuate, heed the warning—it’s unsafe to stay. Rest assured that businesses that are prepared and forced to evacuate in most cases will reopen when it’s safe to do so.
On the water or under it you may have to make the evacuation decision. If the situation becomes unsafe, order the evacuation!

R is Recovery
Recovery begins with your recovery plan—long before the event occurs. Before the forecasted event, move your computers and set your supplies aside. Continue to do business. Have a cashbox and receipt book in case your register goes down. Have a sign that doesn’t require electricity to run that says “Open.” When the disaster is over and people venture out into their community, they will see your sign. Even if they don’t buy something from you right then, they will remember that you stayed open or reopened quickly after the disaster. Have these items on hand “just in case” as part of your recovery plan.

And now for R.E.A.D.Y.

R is for Rely
Whether a Basic Open Water Diver or an experienced Technical Diver, you know what equipment is critical to your dive and your survival. The equipment you rely on most you duplicate. An octopus, a second compass, a pony bottle, even your buddy (a second set of eyes) all duplications of the things you rely on most.
In your business, what do you count on to continue to operate? Is it dependent on a single person or a single system? If so, you need to create redundancy. What do you rely on? Do you have key procedures that only exist in your employees’ heads? Write them down now. Keep a copy at your facility and another off-site at a safe location. Those processes are important. Back up your computer files and store them off-site. If your building were to be demolished, would you be able to quickly duplicate your processes in another location?

E is for Educate
Divers and Dive Masters continue their diving education continuously. The community leaders also need to know the plan within your facility. If you become part of your community response, you will need to know how to access people and they will need to know how to access you. How are they going to identify themselves? How do you collect payment? Cash or a trust system? Develop a written procedure. Make sure your staff knows exactly what they should do. It’s not good enough to write a plan and sit it on a shelf to collect dust. It has to be brought off the shelf, dusted off, and everyone needs to know the plan—even the volunteers. They need to be oriented to the plan you have and the plan your community has. They’ll take comfort in knowing what procedures to follow in the event of an emergency.

A is for Appreciate
Appreciate your employees every day. Not only will you experience a more pleasant workplace, but in a time of crisis your employees will pay you back with their loyalty. Appreciate them for drilling and educating themselves on this beforehand. In the face of a natural disaster, continue to appreciate your employees—particularly the ones who came back. But still appreciate the ones who couldn’t come back. Some people will have more pressing personal responsibilities than others.

D is for Drill
Have dry runs. Just as you have a routine procedure for a fire drill, so should you for a disaster drill. If you don’t, panic will set in and your mind will shut down. You will revert to what is familiar—the day-to-day routine you’ve always done—not what you should be doing in a disaster. Dedicate yourself to the entire process and practice.

Y is for You
For divers, it has always come down to you—each individual—from the newbie to the most senior dive master. Whether on the water or in your business, take responsibility for all your actions. Plan ahead and be part of the recovery solution.

Take Action
Nothing you do can prevent a natural disaster. The best chance you have for business survival is to become “D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R. R.E.A.D.Y.” Plan ahead. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. If the worst happens, don’t panic. You already know the drill and what is expected of you. Don’t let your business be one that boards up its doors and never reopens. Be the business the community can turn to for support, and they will remember you long after the crisis, ensuring your business will be around for years to come.

Griffin Works offers Pawsitive Interactions with Service Dogs During Response Operations©, an audience-customized training that breaks down barriers by offering hands-on handling training and demonstrations with working service dogs for fire departments, EMS agencies, and public safety organizations.

Part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and home to the National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center, TEEX has been leading homeland security training since 1998. The major TEEX programs include fire and rescue, infrastructure and safety, law enforcement, economic and workforce development, and homeland security. As a member of The Texas A&M University System, TEEX is unique in its ability to access a broad range of emerging research and technical expertise. Beginning with course design and development all the way through hands-on instruction and national certification testing, TEEX delivers comprehensive training through both classroom and hands-on instruction and as online courses.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was created by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children’s Health Act to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. This unique network of child-serving professionals, caregivers and young adults, researchers, and national partners is committed to changing the course of children’s lives by improving their care and moving scientific gains quickly into practice across the U.S. The NCTSN is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and coordinated by the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS). 

The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The EMI provides national leadership in developing and delivering training to ensure that individuals and groups having key emergency management responsibilities possess the requisite skills to effectively perform their jobs.

The High Alert Institute maintains a list of reviewed courses provided by governments, universities and professional organizations. This list is geared towards the non-emergency management person who participates in disaster planning, preparedness, response, recovery or mitigation as part of their job responsibilities.

The High Alert Institute has partnered with Shutterstock to distribute stock images from the nature images donated by our supporters. For eligible stock images, Shutterstock will donate a portion of the royalty to the High Alert Institute. There is no cost to charitable organizations or to Shutterstock customers.

For eligible purchases through AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the High Alert Institute. There is no cost to charitable organizations or to AmazonSmile customers. All you need to do is push the SMILE NOW button and select to support THE HIGH ALERT INSTITUTE on AmazonSmile.

Koi need forever homes, too! For pond enthusiasts, freshwater exotic and ornamental fish may not be available through pet stores or rescues in their area. The High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program will be happy to assist you in stocking your new pond or adding a new finned friend to your school. Coming soon – when you adopt a Koi from the High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program, we can arrange for delivery to your door anywhere in the continental United States.

Have you always wanted a Koi pond but don’t have the space one? Sponsor a Koi in our community shelter pond and we send you photos of your sponsored animal. Coming soon are live Koi Cameras above and below the water to enjoy your sponsored Koi anytime.

Dumping of freshwater non-native species and exotic aquatic pets into wild habitats is a man-made disaster that is truly preventable. The Institute’s Aquatic Pet Welfare Partnership works to raise awareness and reduce the impact on healthy ecosystems through education, as well as rescue and rehoming. Joined by champions of animal welfare and environmental stewardship, this  association of aquatic pet rescue operations and aquatic pet shelters across the United States aims to save our finned friends and preserve our waterways together.

Want to share our cause with family, friends, and colleagues? Looking for a non-traditional way to celebrate a birthday or honor someone special? Support the Institute by starting your own Peer-to-Peer fundraising challenge! Let your contacts know why our mission is important to you and what they can do to support your cause. START YOUR OWN FUNDRAISER for the High Alert Institute.

From the staffing pool to the shelter ponds, from the boardroom to the classroom, and from reading the science to writing the analyses, High Alert Institute programs and services benefit from the experience, expertise, and generosity of our volunteers. Put your talents to use for good and to good use – VOLUNTEER TODAY.

Make your donation twice as nice by rehoming aquatic pets and providing a rehabilitation companion pet to a deserving person, family, or facility. Sponsor part or all of a Joy of Koi Program pond installation – complete with rehomed koi – and give the gifts of love and recovery.

Professional photographers, amateurs, and legal copywrite holders are all welcome to participate in the High Alert Institute Nature Photo Donation Program. Sales of the images benefit the Institute and donors are eligible for tax deductions equivalent to the fair market value of their photos. Landscapes, seascapes, animals, flowers – all may be accepted – whether new or vintage  images. People may be included in the photo but only if unidentifiable (i.e., blurred figures at a distance).

Did you know that unused patents and copyrights can be donated to charity? Intellectual Property (IP) just sitting on a shelf will lose value as it becomes obsolete. The High Alert Institute IP Donation Program seeks to rescue stranded, technology-related IP with the potential for development into marketable products. Once accepted by the program, the owner/inventor is eligible for a tax deduction equivalent to the fair market value of the IP. The Institute receives the patent licensing fees or revenue from the sale of the IP to businesses, helping us to fund our mission. In turn, businesses are able to advance their markets and create jobs for less money than starting a project from scratch.

Disasters are defined as situations in which needs exceed or overwhelm available resources. Some disasters affect an entire community, while other disasters impact individuals and families. Crises of physical or psychological health can be very personal disasters.
The therapeutic value of pets during illness, trauma, and recovery is well established. And Koi fish may be well suited for people who are not able to provide verbal pet commands or physically care for pets like dogs and cats. Koi ponds are also a source of beauty and peace, providing an ideal setting for quiet reflection or meditation.
We are working to partner with pond installers and aquatic pet rescues/shelters to offer free or reduced-cost ponds with rehomed Koi fish to people seeking this type of pet therapy.

Disasters disrupt life and impact our sense of personal, family, and community safety. Survivors and responders alike often are not aware of the emotional, psychological or spiritual challenges that they may face from disaster onset through recovery. With two decades of experience training responders and communities to prepare for the behavioral health aspects of disasters, we will continue to provide education and a curated list of resources to groups or individuals.

Non-medical factors that impact overall health are termed Social Determinants of Health or SDoH. Noise pollution, poor air quality, and poor water quality are three environmental factors known to have a strong link to overall health. And the same environmental factors that impact humans impact their pets and other animals in their care. We continue to assist in advocacy, education, and technology development to mitigate the impact of SDoH on humans and animals alike.

Our efforts in shelter and rescue are the main focus of our environmental stewardship, reducing the environmental impact of non-native aquatic animals being dumped into public waterways. The High Alert Institute also assists innovators with the design, development, and evaluation of green and renewable energy technologies. Reducing the carbon footprint associated with disaster preparedness, response, and recovery furthers our continued mission to mitigate risk and improve resilience.

We partner with public and private organizations, sharing resources and fostering partnerships to improve disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, and mitigation.

The High Alert Institute team has over a century of combined research experience in medical, nursing, behavioral health, and disaster sciences. Our team provides support to researchers and technology developers through comprehensive literature searches and reviews, as well as failure mode database searches and adjudicated reviews.

When disaster strikes, most aquatic pet owners have limited options to secure the safety of their pets. Sheltering in place may not be possible if there is no power to provide aeration and “pet-friendly” shelters do not include ponds or aquariums. Our goal is to provide an option for aquatic pet owners in need of rescue and shelter for their finned friends.

Our goal is to share our two decades of disaster readiness experience with animal welfare organizations, shelters, caretakers, and pet owners, as they implement contingency  plans for natural and manmade disasters.

Join the Institute
Stay informed and get updates.

*We do NOT share your information with any other sites or organizations.

High Alert Institute

4800 Ben Hill Trail
Lake Wales, FL 33898
Office: 863.696.8090
FAX: 407.434.0804


Privacy Policy

Cookie Policy

Terms of Use


Get Your Data

Shipping Policy

Message Us



Do Not Sell Info

Return Policy