High Alert Institute



The Resilience Factor

by | Oct 18, 2007

Living in Florida, I am used to the spring and summertime ritual of hurricane preparedness. Long before I became an expert in the field of disaster planning, preparation, education, response and recovery, I was expert in my own family’s hurricane preparation.  


All Floridians know the drill: Plywood for your windows, three days of food per person, and fill your bathtub with water. Being an overachiever all of my life, I of course have a pantry full of food (okay, so I shop at Costco), I share a commercial generator with my mother who lives next door, and I even have a 40,000-gallon bathtub. In Florida, we call it a swimming pool.


My 40,000-gallon bathtub is a beautiful thing. It is a gathering place for the family, our own little oasis in the southern heat. The water is chlorinated so it stores well, and when we have to use it as our emergency water reserve we have a small filtration and de-chlorination device that keeps the water safe to drink.  


But all of this physical preparation is just one small aspect of resilience, and resilience is how we all get through life’s little and not-so-little disasters.


Before we can really discuss resilience, we have to understand a few simple definitions. First what is a disaster? A disaster is when your needs exceed your resources. During the holiday shopping season we all run into our own little mini-disasters. It is not uncommon, like Whimpy, for our wants to exceed our wallets.  


Resilience is the opposite of a disaster. Resilience is when your resources exceed your needs. When we are out shopping for the holidays and the cash is low, we all have the same call of resilience, “Charge it!”


But even this leaves the majority of resilience unaccounted for. Resilience is far more than physical or even financial resource management. Resilience begs the question, “How big is the bathtub, and how do you build a 40,000-gallon bathtub in your soul?” 


There are seven areas of human functioning:


  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Interpersonal
  • Societal
  • Tactical
  • Spiritual


Each of these areas of human functioning have a corresponding form of resilience—a canteen that we fill in the time between disasters and that we draw from during the response to a disaster.  


It is through the maintenance and enhancement of resilience, both for ourselves as individuals as well as for the processes by which we provide for the most critical needs of our businesses and families, that we ensure that with whom we share our lives and careers thrive with us despite the adversity that faces us.


In the Disaster Field Office we long ago learned that mastering adversity depends on following three simple rules and applying five critical lessons.


  • Disaster Field Office Rule #1: Know the language!
    In the Disaster Field Office we speak a language that you will learn in the coming chapters, but three concepts that are common to all disasters are encapsulated in the very definitions of “Disaster,” Catastrophe,” and “Resilience.”

    • Disaster is when needs are greater than resources, or mathematically:
      Disaster = Needs > Resources
    • Catastrophe is when needs exceed the ability to respond, or mathematically:
      Catastrophe = Needs > Ability to Respond
    • Resilience is when resources are greater than need, or mathematically:
      Resilience = Resources > Needs (it is the opposite of a disaster)


  • Disaster Field Office Rule #2: Know your needs and your resources!
    In the Disaster Field Office, knowing needs and resources allows you to triage your needs and critical processes such that your available resources are used to support the most important needs, thus ensuring your resilience and staving off disaster.


  • Disaster Field Office Rule #3: Learn the lessons and then apply them!
    In the Disaster Field Office we discovered long ago that at any event there are:

    • Lessons that occur but are unobserved
    • Lessons that occur and are observed, but are not learned
    • Lessons that occur, are observed and learned, but not applied
    • Lessons that occur, are observed, learned and applied 


Only those lessons that are observed, learned and applied enable you to survive anything, anywhere, every time. The five critical lessons from the disaster field office are:


  • Lesson #1: Completely Customized Customer Service
    In the Disaster Field Office, we long ago learned that “all disasters are local,” in other words the response to a disaster must be customized for a disaster and the disaster survivors. In short, “One Size Fits None.”


  • Lesson #2: Orchestrating Overwhelming Opportunity
    In the Disaster Field Office, big numbers mean big opportunity and big responsibility. The ability to orchestrate these needs is the hallmark of the great leader.


  • Lesson #3: Split Second Solutions
    In the Disaster Field Office, split second decisions are made using methods born of experience and forged in the life and death of disaster response. Brought together here, these methods form Split Second Solutions—the three skills that make split second decisions possible:

    • Pattern Recognition
    • Breaking Your Framing Bias
    • Heuristic Thinking 


  • Lesson #4: Process Analysis and Triage
    In the Disaster Field Office, we use vulnerability analysis and triage to identify and prioritize critical processes and outcomes, and then we allocate resources to the most critical processes to support critical outcomes. Process Analysis and Triage will teach you to identify and prioritize your key processes in your business, career, family and life while properly allocating resources to support and maximize your survival and success based on the three categories of business/life processes:

    • Critical (Red)
    • Urgent (Yellow)
    • Supportive (Green)

You then apply the four-step method for maintaining business/family continuity in almost any situation while maximizing results in every circumstance:

  • Identify and prioritize outcomes
  • Identify processes essential to each outcome
  • Prioritize processes based on outcome priorities
  • Allocate resources based on relative process priorities


  • Lesson #5: Epidemic Enthusiasm
    In the Disaster Field Office we know that morale and esprit de corps is essential to the survival of our people and ourselves. In the Disaster Field Office we know how to keep morale high and outcome higher because we have done it in the worst of conditions: disasters. 


If resilience is when your resources exceed your needs, then the key to resilience is to always have more resources than you need. In life, these resources fall into seven broad categories—the Seven Canteens of Resilience.  

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.

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High Alert Institute

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


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