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Think Again: Don't take public safety net for granted

July 09, 2012

While the consumerism around July 4th is hard to avoid, planning barbecues, having friends over and watching fireworks give me pause to reflect on things that I appreciate about our country.

I spent the last week in senior-level emergency preparedness training for the Incident Management System, which is part of the federal National Incident Management System structure and sponsored by the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency (FEMA). It’s the system that is used by public safety organizations across the country to manage recovery efforts in a wide variety of disruptions in our cities and communities, whether caused by natural or man-made disasters.

While the system can be used in even small instances, it’s more readily observed in action during larger scale events, such as the Station fire in 2009 or the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast. More recently it was being used to manage the situation with the fires in Colorado and the severe windstorms that hit the mid-Atlantic states, knocking out power to millions for an extended period of time.

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The FEMA training taught me what it takes behind the scenes to manage through and recover from such situations, something we often take for granted. We have an amazing public safety net in place in the U.S. -- a network of local, state and federal level organizations and private companies that ensure our society can bounce back from calamities.

We know how to respond in the event of disasters, not only in our own country, but around the world. We’re not always perfect, and are quick to criticize recovery times when they last more than a day, but perhaps we’ve become spoiled by having our expectations raised too far.

It’s a reminder that we also have individual responsibility in preparing ourselves and our families for unexpected situations. We live in an area of the country where there are increased risks for natural disasters, earthquakes, fires and windstorms. If the unexpected hits tomorrow, each household needs to have a certain level of self-sufficiency until help arrives, which in many instances could be days or weeks.

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