Over the past 20 plus years, I have been perplexed and bewildered why leaders both in government and industry have not taken preparedness seriously. A while ago, it was explained to me. It all comes down to cost-benefit analysis. Leaders love to present bright, shiny new things to their constituents, shareholders, customers, media, and so on. Let’s face it, preparedness is boring! For example, weatherizing power plants in warm environments is not economical nor exciting. Or is it? By kicking the can, leaders hope that unpleasant, yet predictable once-in-a-hundred-years events do not happen on their watch. Cost-benefit analysis matters a lot when those unforeseen events happen. And these types of events have been occurring more and more frequently lately with great cost through loss of life, sociological-psychological impact, and loss of revenue.
This month’s issue of the DomPrep Journal highlights the evolutionary process of disaster preparedness. Remember back to when tabletop exercises and grants were abundant. Preparedness professionals broke out into small groups to discuss what if scenarios. The ideas were plentiful, and the interagency, multijurisdictional plans could almost seamlessly address whatever low-frequency high-consequence event should arise.
However, as those what if scenarios turned into real what now scenarios, the expectations no longer fit the plan. Knowing that a disaster is coming at some point in the future is not the same as being prepared for the events that will unfold. Although pandemic preparedness has been long discussed, the reality of resource shortages, workforce attrition, funding gaps, etc. make some plans nearly impossible to implement. Therefore, lessons not only need to be learned and shared, but they also need to be adaptable to future crises with numerous variables.
Adaptability includes building a more robust and enhancing capabilities to prioritize risk reduction and consequence management. may also change as new threats emerge. For example, in 2020, the pandemic and the election cycle both went through the typical phases of the disaster cycle (preparedness/protection/prevention, response, recovery, and mitigation), so both warrant all-hazards planning to ensure community resilience.
So much has changed in the past decade, but some things are worth revisiting. In 2010, DomPrep asked readers to provide their thoughts on pandemic preparedness without having the personal experience of a pandemic on the scale and scope of the one that emerged just 10 years later. With the knowledge and experience acquired over the past year, how have perceptions change and plans evolved? Do the cost-benefit analyses still provide the same results? Please let us know how your pandemic preparedness and response plans are evolving.
Martin (Marty) Masiuk, firstname.lastname@example.org