Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge

Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge – (TM) BSA

I have been involved with the Boy Scouts since 1978 – I bought a canoe and one of my best friends, who was a scoutmaster, started inviting me to all the camp outs.  One aspect of Scouting was always planning what to do in case of an emergency.  The BSA motto, Be Prepared, is the epitome of this philosophy.  BSA considers emergency preparedness so important that the merit badge is required to earn the Eagle rank.

You don’t have to be involved with Scouting for long before you discover the Emergency Preparedness merit badge.  While there are a lot of resources available about prepared, there is none better than this merit badge pamphlet.  It covers all the basics and is easy to understand.

While I’m a firm believer in Scouting, this post is not an unsolicited advertisement for the BSA.  I want to focus on making sure that an emergency doesn’t become a crisis.  Because we can’t escape an emergency – they happen.  We can avoid a crisis even during an emergency.

Definition: Emergency – a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.

Definition: Crisis – a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.

I like to break preparedness into two sets of actions:

  1. Prepare for emergency situations
  2. Respond to emergency situations
  3. Recover from emergency situations


  1. Prevent emergency situations
  2. Mitigate losses in emergency situations.

In the first set you are directing your attention having the resources, information and plans in place so that the actual emergency can be dealt with to minimize loss or inconvenience.  In the second set, you are attempting to minimize the effects of an emergency.

For example, let’s consider the local river flooding and the waters reaching your home.

  • You plan in advance to have sand bags to create a barrier; all your important documents, medicine, food, water, clothes and essential or valuable items ready to be loaded into the family vehicle and have an escape route mapped out – you get the idea. You’re ready in case the river floods.
  • When the waters rise you put your plan into action – filling sand bags or grabbing your Go-pack and fleeing. This is your response.
  • After the waters recede you return and clean up, hire a cleaning service, file insurance claims, etc. You recover from the emergency.

Planning, responding and recovering are the three stages of emergency response.  But the second set of actions are designed to either prevent or reduce the severity of an emergency.

  • To prevent flooding, a dam could be built that will hold the flood waters and release them at a rate that won’t lead to flooding; a dike system could be built, or relief channels can be constructed.
  • If flooding will occur, then homes can be bought and removed or moved to higher ground so they can’t be flooded and thus mitigate loss of property or damage.

All emergency management plans and programs are centered on the above five possible actions.  It makes no difference if you are discussing a single family emergency or a national disaster on the scale of 9/11.

In part 2, we will examine what the individual, family or organization can do to prepare.  Because the individual is the basis for all actions.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.