In Other News (Or Let’s Get Back to Governing)

By Jim Mullen
Emergency Management, Once Removed

Nov 10, 2020: “Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler today delivered recommendations to create a statewide disaster resilience office to Gov. Jay Inslee, the Legislature and other state leaders, as recommended by the Disaster Resiliency Work Group. “ 

When I drifted into semi – retirement in 2013, I had two major regrets as a 20 plus year director of emergency management (in Seattle and Washington State ). I’ve written extensively about both disappointments in this blog – one being the importance of developing disaster exercises that directly involve the general public (which has yet to be advanced), and the other being the need to examine carefully the contours of the recovery challenges our state might face following any number of statewide disasters. Washington State’s Emergency Management Division offered a defensible, comprehensive recovery template for the consideration of Governor Gregoire (admittedly near the end of her second term) in 2012 and the -then incoming (and still) Governor Inslee. With respect to recovery discussions in both administrations, there was recognition that state government ought to establish a recovery planning capability, but apparent reluctance to involve the entire apparatus of local and state government as well as the private and other sectors under the Governor, as we proposed.

The Insurance Commissioner’s proposal for a dedicated “resilience “function conceivably could realize both unfulfilled concepts. To galvanize cooperation following a disaster it is important to train the general population to prepare intelligently, without fear, for whatever may occur. If the pandemic has taught us nothing, it should have affirmed the notion that planning for disaster impacts that have not happened in our collective living memories is more important than ever.

And if we prepare properly, we must weigh the consequences of a catastrophic disaster, physical or biological, and think through the techniques and emergency measures that are available to us that we might draw upon to navigate the rough waters and reach the other side of the event – together.

A properly legislatively mandated and funded Resilience Office could use the capabilities of current state agencies to support and plan exercises which engage the general population, advising them of the limitations and capabilities of government, while reinforcing government’s expectations of the public. A statewide Resilience Office would not be hamstrung by the press of ongoing, “mandated” agency business – something my earlier proposals failed to account for and which often interfered with implementation of some of my better ideas.

One caution: This should not be dependent on federal funding. Too often, legislators and executives cower before the altar of tight budgets even when public safety is at stake – until an event bites them where it hurts most. This should be entirely a state funded enterprise. This is a state obligation, to protect its population and its economy and its environment. Outside funding should be viewed as a side dish and not the main course. Where this proposal goes, how it evolves and how it is received merits our attention.

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Information on this Blog is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not engaged in rendering professional advice or services. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with an professional adviser. Opinions expressed here represent the viewpoints of individuals authoring the blog and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Center of Excellence.