Friday, May 03, 2013

Seven generations is a shared perspective with emergency planning

As part of my Water District work, I've started expanding my policy focus to emergency/disaster planning, or "resilience" as the current buzzword goes. Taking the long view seems as necessary in disaster planning as it does for the environment - planning for a 100 year flood means many areas will go 200 years or longer before the event you've planned for finally happens. I sure wish we could do climate planning in anticipation of what things could be like in the year 2213.

What got me started on this post is a presentation I saw yesterday - I'm the Water District rep to a regional planning organization for emergencies, and the presentation was on the role of local ham radio. We have over 7000 licensed radio operators in our county of nearly 2 million, and about 700 have taken additional training in emergency communication. Another 100 or so maintain emergency kits so they can travel to a site and start communication even if all power, phone, cellular, and internet access is down. They have a separate non-profit and work closely with government emergency services, and it's all volunteer with minimal (but some) governmental funding. It's a great backup system.

Resilience in response to changes is an emergency planning concept as well as environmental concept - a healthy ecosystem and climate can absorb challenges and still function. If we push things to the edge, then maybe not.

UPDATE:  forgot to note an important psychological difference. Emergency planning is all about training so that much of what you do is rote and you only improvise as little as needed. The quasi-military, hierarchical culture is obviously a different world.


David B. Benson said...

"The quasi-military, hierarchical culture is obviously a different world."



Dave X said...

Emergency planners are good at planning for emergencies. Contrasts with a gaggle of political planners who deny emergencies and plan for taking advantage of the status quo.

Brian said...

David - I'm referring to the emergency management systems. The way they respond to a mass casualty event is similar to a military assault - everyone trained to be a part of the system, hierarchy sends out commands and takes control, etc.

Anonymous said...

"I sure wish we could do climate planning in anticipation of what things could be like in the year 2213."

Effectively, when you plan for something like a 100 year flood, you are planning for climate change.

The effect may be to increase the frequency of the event (eg, making it a 50 or even 20 year event), but if you are prepared for something, you are prepared whether it happens tomorrow or 100 years from now.

And many (if not most) of the preparations for disasters (natural or man made) are going to be the same, at any rate.


Anonymous said...

"Emergency planners are good at planning for emergencies."

It would be Lee Clarke's contention that this isn't always true [Google "Mission Improbable"]. I would also contest the over-reliance on an effective 'militarised' response. This belief was most visibly challenged during Katrina, but the fact is that at the 'neighbourhood' scale the most effective responses often carried out by emergent groups, with little or no formal training, but a strong ethos of 'doing the right thing' (just look at the work coming out of the U of Delaware Disaster Research Centre for examples)


Anonymous said...

The writing is on the wall.

In the not too distant future, America's biggest domestic disasters (natural and manmade) will be "handled" by military-style responses.

Parts of the response will be farmed out to private contractors paid by FEMA, Homeland Security or some other government agency.

All it will take is one event like Fukushima to see this plan put into action. In the US, I suspect it will be much more "militarized" than the response to Fukushima was, however. (Some might say that the police response in Boston is a preview)

And once it has been done once, it will become standard operating procedure for large disasters.

Whether it is the "most effective" response will be "irrelevant", especially if there are billions of dollars to be made by corporations.

After all, only a complete idiot would claim that the Iraq war was the "most effective response" (to God only knows what)