By Jim Mullen
Emergency Management, Once Removed
Well before the pandemic began exacting its horrific toll, “trust in government” was on a downward spiral. Last January, in “Government’s Trust Deficit: A Possible Antidote,” I suggested a program of community-centric disaster exercises that could be used to prepare the public for a disaster.
The concept was that through these exercises, emergency managers could make use of their online capabilities to open a dialogue with the public, building trust while also providing constructive advice on community preparedness and government obligations, limitations, and capabilities during emergencies. The technology exists, and emergency managers are uniquely positioned to provide essential, non – partisan information to the people they are supposed to protect.
Twelve months after that post, the level of trust between government and governed appears to have gotten worse. While I still believe my “suggested antidote” would be helpful, the faith of much of the nation in its government seems to have deteriorated to a dangerous level.
The consequences of the insurrection at our national Capitol will reverberate for a long time to come. But emergency managers, homeland security professionals, and public safety leaders live in the “now” and cannot wait for historical verdicts. So here are some questions and challenges that, right now, confront those engaged in the broad range of public safety activities and for those teaching and studying those disciplines as well – questions that demand reflection and ultimately answers.
How will spiraling hate, bigotry, and mistrust of government impact emergency management, homeland security, and related disciplines?
How will divisive ideologies affect the ability to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters that surely are to come?
In exceptionally divided times, can emergency managers contribute to strengthening the bond (see that January 2020 post) between governed and those who govern?
In the Pacific Northwest, as we approach the 20th anniversary of the Nisqually Earthquake in February, what impediments exist that might make our communications less effective and our recommendations to the public less credible in the eyes of some who might be more inclined to take their cues from a shadowy, depraved “Q” – instead of decent, smart, dedicated public officials?
Are we content with awaiting how events unfold before addressing these gaps?
We should be resolute in seeking the answers to these questions.
Note: to the readers recently suggesting that “politics” is not an appropriate topic for this blog: political action (or inaction) frequently intrudes on emergency management/homeland security turf, and it is the wise professional who takes note of developments and movements that may portend future disasters.
“Politics” serves as a mirror into our societal values; if when we gaze in that mirror, we do not like what we see, it does little good to blame the mirror!