Prepare vs. Mitigate

Might not seem like we need to make a distinction between PREPARE and MITIGATE. But, when you are a process person like I am, it becomes important. 

As a professional emergency manager for 30+ years, I've become accustomed to using our lingo. When referring to disaster, we say:

Prepare for

Mitigate against

Respond to

Recover from

A way to think about this is: we prepare for those things we cannot mitigate against. Consider a tall solid, heavy bookcase. The ground swells and shaking of an earthquake can cause the bookcase to topple. When it falls, it could cause serious injury. We can prevent – or mitigate – those specific injuries by securing the bookcase to the wall studs.  

Mitigation activities are one-and-done. Once we have secured the bookcase, it is done. We can check it off our list. There is no need to revisit the task. 

Preparedness activities, on the other hand, require ongoing 'maintenance.' We cannot choose an Out-of-Area Contact person and never revisit the task. That person may die. We cannot prepare a 72-Hour Kit and store it indefinitely. The food may spoil. The clothing may no longer fit. Our teenage kids no longer need diapers.


Preparedness, of necessity, is process. We build into our preparedness calendar periodic revisits of essential activities. This way, we are more emotionally and mentally, as well as physically, prepared. 

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