According to the Associated Press, a “survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center says that nearly 6 in 10, or 57 percent, say the country is not better prepared for another disaster like a hurricane. Roughly equal numbers of Democrats, Republicans and independents share that gloomy outlook.” Americans are pretty smart.
Actually, the U,S. is better prepared for hurricanes than it was several years ago, in part because the federal government has dedicated a lot of time and resources preparing for this kind of disaster. Even more importantly, the states that usually bear the brunt of disasters such as Texas and Florida are the among the nation’s leaders in disaster preparedness. Others, including Mississippi and Louisiana, have significantly ramped-up their game since Katrina.
Still, Americans are right to be worried. Several years ago the Department of Homeland Security established 15 disaster scenarios to guide national planning for real catastrophes. With the exception of hurricanes and pandemics, almost no real progress has been made. The White House decided to rewrite the presidential directive that governs the planning process. We’re still waiting. National disaster planning may not be at a standstill, but the amount of progress since 9/11 is shockingly inadequate.
And for some kinds of truly catastrophic disasters, like the threat of an EMP attack, the White House has done next to nothing.
This Administration has also revealed that it has a tough time dealing with the unexpected. We saw that in the inordinate amount of time it took to get the federal response to the Gulf oil spill organized.
To make matters worse, this White House persists in issuing FEMA declarations more and more frequently, a policy that actually encourages states to be less prepared and detracts FEMA from preparing for really true national disasters.
Finally, the Defense Department even plans to cut the number of specially trained troops that would be available for responding to WMD attacks on the homeland.
It is difficult to give the government high marks for disaster planning. No wonder the polls are so dismal.