“You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows…” (Bob Dylan.et al.)

by Jim Mullen
Emergency Management, Once Removed

In this era of increasingly dangerous weather events, among the most dangerous are those slow-moving storm systems that pause over an area for an extended period before moving on or dissipating. It’s prudent to be alert to the potential for devastation and tragic consequences from such storms.

Years ago, emergency managers developed a partnership with the National Weather Service (NWS), encouraging scientists to provide the earliest possible worst-case weather scenarios that might occur to aid us in preparing the public.

A different kind of slow-moving, human-caused “storm system” is currently hovering over the United States. While NWS can’t help us gauge its course, the potential for devastation and tragic consequences from this slowly building disruption merits serious attention from all of us, particularly public safety professionals. This human-caused “storm system” has always hovered over our nation’s business throughout our country’s history, but more than once in that history, its adherents have been discredited, disgraced, and pushed out of sight. Yet, today the forces capable of generating such a “storm” are surfacing – in school board deliberations, county commission meetings, targeting often obscure but important state officials. It may be portrayed falsely as a spontaneous outpouring of populist emotion, but unlike an errant weather system, this “storm” is in fact, however loosely promoted and powered by dangerous insurrectionist philosophies espoused by dangerous people.

Rational people understand the difference between questioning a school district’s curriculum and threatening school board members’ lives; there is a difference between requesting a recount of votes in a close election and vilifying an open process when one still loses; there is a difference between petitioning the federal government and proclaiming one’s intention to murder government officials or election workers who disappoint us.

Preparing government leaders to deal with this threat requires the type of political calculation many emergency managers and their homeland security counterparts prefer to avoid. They will ignore this threat at their peril and ours. Emergency managers may find themselves in the crosshairs of this storm, and soon – some of those for whom they work may be on the wrong side, and choices, difficult as they may be, will have to be made.

In professional training sessions, in degree and certification programs, and even in national academies dedicated to training the current and future generations of emergency managers and homeland security professionals, ignoring this emerging threat is tantamount to professional negligence. Rather, it must be understood, confronted, opposed, and defeated

We’ve seen this “storm” coming; now it is here, and we had best figure out how to mitigate its very negative consequences. It will neither dissipate on its own nor will its long-term effects be easily overcome. Unlike Nature’s storms, we really don’t need a weatherman to predict the damage this storm promises to create.

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Jim has spent 3 decades in emergency management, including 12 years at the local level as director of the City of Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management and 8 and a half years as Washington State’s Emergency Management Division Director. Jim retired from state service in March 2013. Jim also served as President of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) from January 2011 to October 2012. He is currently sole proprietor of “EM Northwest Consulting” based in Seattle.

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.