Emergency preparedness tips from former U.S. Coast Guard commandant Thad Allen
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Emergency preparedness tips from former U.S. Coast Guard commandant Thad Allen

March 27, 2020 | Updated on January 8, 2024

This week on the Transition Lab podcast, retired Admiral Thad Allen shared his insights on disaster preparedness and how to maintain morale and stay calm in times of crisis.

The first step is to define the crisis.

The coronavirus is an unprecedented situation for our nation, affecting all 50 states and U.S. territories simultaneously, and requiring a response not only from the federal government, but the private sector and state and local governments as well. By defining the crisis, you understand the path forward.


Remove ambiguity. Create clarity by sharing facts about the situation and being transparent about what you know and what you don’t. Earn the public’s trust by creating a sense of honesty and credibility.

Understand how people’s lives are affected.

Be empathetic. Put yourself in the shoes of those most affected by the situation. From the podcast:

“I remember walking through where the eye of a storm came ashore with Katrina, and I found a woman sitting on the foundation of what used to be a house. She said, ‘I come over every day just looking for things that still might be here, that’ll help me remember what our life was like.’ For me to see her go through the agony and the daily routine of trying to find pieces of what was, helped me understand the human impact.”

Listen to the full conversation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn.

Read more about presidential transition on our blog with A framework for presidential candidates during the COVID-19 pandemic and The lasting impacts of a presidential transition.