• PreparationsCoronavirus: Governments Knew a Pandemic Was a Threat – Here’s Why They Weren’t Better Prepared

    By Chris Tyler and Peter Gluckman

    Most people think or at least hope their government is doing a good job in the face of COVID-19, according to the polls. But there can be no doubt that governments around the world were ill-prepared for this pandemic. How is it possible that we were not ready? Not only had Bill Gates been banging on about this for a long time, but pandemics also featured strongly on regional and national risk registers produced by governments and bureaucrats, as well as international registers from non-governmental organizations. Despite all the effort that has gone into developing these tools, governments around the world have been bad at acting on their warnings about a pandemic. We see at least six possible reasons for this.

  • ArgumentThe Defense Production Act and the Failure to Prepare for Catastrophic Incidents

    When early data from Mexico suggested that a new strain of influenza, H1N1, might have a mortality rate between 1 and 10 percent in April 2009, the U.S. government sprang into action. Washington anticipated that the H1N1 virus might lead to a public health catastrophe as bad or worse than what is happening today with COVID-19. Jared Brown writes that the lessons of 2009 were not learnt – or implemented. “The executive branch’s ad-hoc application of the Defense Production Act’s authorities to this pandemic is Exhibit A of how our government, across multiple Republican and Democratic administrations and throughout the national security enterprise, has failed to develop or adapt the Act’s tools for the threats of the 21st century,” he writes.

  • COVID-19: PreparationCoronavirus: Could the World Have Prepared Better for a Pandemic?

    By Neil Pyper

    As we deal with COVID-19 epidemic, obvious questions are being asked about how governments and companies can prepare themselves for these sorts of extreme events. One technique that has gained prominence in helping business people and officials deal with events that have a low probability but high impact is called scenario analysis or scenario planning. There are a number of different methods that can be used to model scenarios, but in essence these all involve developing stories about a number of possible ways that the future could unfold.

  • Perspective: CommunicationGood Communication Is a Key Part of Disaster Response

    Behind the scenes during hurricanes and other disasters, scores of public information officers (PIOs) in state and local government agencies are fixed to their screens – often in 24-hour shifts – frantically fielding facts and phone calls, rushing to get information to the news media and the public. While this work may not seem as critical as search-and-rescue operations, it is essential.

  • PreparednessPreparing for the Unexpected Disaster

    When thinking of earthquakes in the U.S., California often comes to mind. But what if a massive earthquake suddenly struck Middle America? Would first responders and emergency managers have the tools to swiftly secure infrastructure and ensure public safety? Would every level of government, as well as stakeholders at non-governmental organizations or in the private sector, know how to properly communicate and share resources? DHS S&T asked itself these questions, and they were the driving force behind S&T joining FEMA and others for FEMA’s 2019 Shaken Fury exercise.

  • Perspective: Phone alertsBritain Plans Mass Mobile Phone Alerts to Protect Public from Terrorism, Major Floods and Nuclear Attack

    Britain is planning to introduce US-style mass mobile phone alerts to protect the public against terrorism, major floods and nuclear attack. Supporters of so-called ‘cell broadcasting’ claim the message alerts could have saved lives during major incidents including the London Bridge terrorist attack and Grenfell Tower fire. Senior figures have raised concerns, however, that the messages could be hijacked by hackers or malicious foreign powers to induce mass panic.

  • EmergenciesAmerican Nurses Not Prepared for a Catastrophe: Study

    On average, American colleges and universities with nursing programs offer about one hour of instruction in handling catastrophic situations such as nuclear events, pandemics, or water contamination crises, according to two recent studies. “We are putting people out there to attend these emergencies, and we owe it to them to prepare them right,” says one expert.

  • PerspectiveA “Responsibility to Prepare”: A strategy for presidential leadership on the security risks of climate change

    Presidential candidates are offering their plans on climate change, and it’s a competition over who’s the most ambitious. That’s good news, given that it’s a major security threat that requires a major response. Thus far, most of the candidates’ plans understandably focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to a low-carbon economy. These steps are critically important, not least because the world will likely experience significant security disruptions in the future if the scale and scope of climate change are not reduced. Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia, and John Conger write in War in the Rocks that this is only half a strategy. Indeed, if there is a silver lining to climate change and the attendant security risks, it’s that we can see many of these changes coming. American scientists, the U.S. government (see this administration’s National Climate Assessment) and private industry have all shown they are capable of modeling climate change futures with a high degree of certainty compared to other trends. A climate model from 1967 still has a strong predictive capacity. Exxon’s own internal calculations and climate modeling from 1982 about where emissions would likely be in the future, including by 2020, were fairly spot-on. A political scientist in 1967 or 1982 would have had much more difficulty predicting what the political landscape would look like in 2020 than she or he would have making predictions about the climate.

  • Disaster preparationEarthquakes or tiger attacks: understanding what people fear most can help prevent disasters

    By Hanna Ruszczyk.

    Understanding what people worry about is crucial to preparing for natural hazards such as earthquakes and mitigating their effects. To prevent disasters, local people, municipal authorities and national governments all need to pull in the same direction – especially when budgets are low for disaster planning. But if residents feel that their everyday fears are ignored by those in power, they may disengage, leaving authorities unable to influence their behavior in a time of crisis.

  • Disaster preparationPreparing low-income communities for hurricanes begins with outreach

    Interviews with economically disadvantaged New Jerseyans in the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy yield advice for future disasters.

  • ResilienceCities can save lives, resources by using a vulnerability reduction scorecard

    A new planning tool enables communities to effectively reduce their vulnerabilities to hazards across their network of plans – including transportation, parks, economic development, hazard mitigation, emergency management and comprehensive land use.

  • Disaster preparednessIs Texas leading on disaster preparedness? Yes and no, experts say

    By Kiah Collier

    During the first legislative session since Hurricane Harvey, state lawmakers are poised to make an investment in storm recovery and flood mitigation that some have described as unprecedented. But it’s more complicated than that.

  • Disaster preparationsIncreasing household preparedness for disaster

    Face-to-face workshops based on the psychology of behavior change and disaster preparedness can be used to prompt households to take action to protect themselves against disasters such as earthquakes, fires and floods.

  • Hurricane MichaelFlorida Panhandle counties less prepared for emergency than rest of state

    found that the vast majority of counties in the Florida Panhandle were less prepared for emergency evacuation compared to the rest of the state. Of the 67 counties in Florida, 10 were rated as having weak levels of evacuation preparedness, and all of these counties were located in the Panhandle/North Florida. Eleven of 16 counties with moderately rated plans also were in this region. Only seven of the counties in the Panhandle had strong plans.

  • Earthquake forecastingA milestone for forecasting earthquake hazards

    By Kim Martineau

    Earthquakes pose a profound danger to people and cities worldwide, but with the right hazard-mitigation efforts, from stricter building requirements to careful zoning, the potential for catastrophic collapses of roads and buildings and loss of human lives can be limited. All of these measures depend on science delivering high-quality seismic hazard models. And yet, current models depend on a list of uncertain assumptions, with predictions that are difficult to test in the real world due to the long intervals between big earthquakes. Researchers have come up with a physics-based model that marks a turning point in earthquake forecasting.

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