Posted by: Dan Stoneking, Director, Private Sector Division
It seems like there are plenty of disasters to test our capability as a nation and as individual communities, so why would we spend time thinking up – and planning for – a disaster even bigger than what we’ve seen in our lifetime, in the U.S.?
In 2011, we had a pretty impressive lineup of catastrophic tornadoes and flooding here in the U.S. Elsewhere in the world, there were more floods, as well as the 3-part crisis of Japan’s earthquake/tsunami/nuclear tragedy. Nobody ever thinks anything on that scale would happen, but it does. Less than a hundred years ago, the U.S. suffered upward of 650,000 deaths as the pandemic influenza of 1918 swept the globe, ultimately claiming an estimated 50 million lives around the world.
Although the majority of us will never live through an experience like that, and we hope never again to see something like that at home, we have an obligation as a nation to continue to push ourselves to prepare for what we call the “Maximum of Maximums.” Moreover, we as a nation must come together as a Whole Community to plan, prepare for, and if necessary, respond to a catastrophic event.
In keeping with this theme, FEMA has launched the fourth topic for public discussion on its online collaboration site – The Whole Community: Planning for the Unthinkable. With this new topic, we invite the private sector, non-profits, voluntary organizations and the general public to brainstorm truly innovative ways to fill critical gaps in the first 72 hours of response, like search and rescue or operational communications or medical response.
Will something like this ever happen? Hopefully not. But by planning for the worst, we will be in better shape than ever to respond to the “likely.” I hope you will join us in a productive dialogue, and help spread the word.