Wishin’ and Hopin’ – Emergency Management, Once Removed, January 2019

Wishin’ and Hopin’

By Jim Mullen

Local and state elected officials searching for 2019 New Year’s resolutions to commit to might consider this modest list:


  • If elected officials and senior leaders chose to ask, at least annually and without a staff filter, their emergency management directors to list areas where there is a serious staffing or policy shortfall: in short, inquiring as to what could go wrong that some attention, funding and encouragement from the top might resolve before it becomes a real-time, serious deficiency? NOTE: this happened just twice in my 21 years as a Director of Emergency Management. Both questions, promptly answered, resulted in two indispensable personnel hires.
  • If a Governor or Mayor, already fully aware of critical gaps in readiness, leveled with the public about their vulnerability to disaster (pick your own hazard; I obsess about earthquakes but there are others) and convened a bipartisan, public/private team to catalogue and resolve those issues that can be mitigated in advance, without waiting for a disaster to trigger frenzied recovery efforts that almost always leave too many people out in the cold, and government reeling from accusations of inadequate performance in the recovery.
  • If someone, anyone really, would take on development of on-line disaster exercises in which the public could participate: 1) demonstrating that government honestly cares about its constituents outside of elections while establishing a continuing dialogue that might rebuild trust between those who govern and the governed; and 2) affords an opportunity for government to gauge the current level of citizen preparedness while receiving feedback from the public that will assist in sharpening its messaging effort.
  • If in the process of supplanting the 3 days’ preparation standard in favor of a more realistic two weeks’ minimum standard for individual and family preparedness (again, applied to a major earthquake -related standard), the government would provide a sliding scale of preparedness: for some events less than two weeks’ preparedness might be enough. For example, three days sustainability might suffice for certain weather events; and one week’s sustainability will handle many other disruptions, where two weeks (or more) sustainability would be advisable for a major or catastrophic disaster. Access to such a grid might help people gradually build to the maximum recommended state of preparedness without feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of suddenly meeting a 2-week standard.

Regular readers will note that these are themes this blog has returned to repeatedly since its inception in September 2015 and could be excused if their New Year’s wish was to have me discuss something else. Understood, but some drums need to be beaten repeatedly, and there you are.

I realize I am asking for a lot by next Christmas, because as I have also noted in one of my blog posts “government ain’t easy”. Fulfilling at least some of these “resolutions” might make governing less difficult, and much more relevant to the people it serves.

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