There is an article over on Raw Story about how local preparedness could be a more effective way of dealing with disasters and pandemics rather than a reliance on top-down response. Who woulda thunk?
A key group of allies is missing in the U.S. effort to face the coronavirus pandemic: the American people.
In the wake of World War II and during the Cold War, the U.S. was the world’s best at planning and preparing for mobilizing the citizenry to take action in an emergency. In those days, the anticipated emergency was a nuclear attack on the U.S., likely resulting in a loss of national leadership that required local governments and members of the public to step up.
Every American was asked to help prepare for that possibility, storing extra supplies, planning to communicate with family members and developing survival skills.
Over the latter half of the 20th century, the U.S. civil defense effort encouraged all Americans to be prepared to respond actively to a national emergency.
In recent years, however, Americans’ expectations have shifted from being ready to respond to passively waiting for help from a centralized, bureaucratic federal effort – usually led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency…
…Small organizations are able to adapt: Many have quickly shifted to fill the immediate need. Small wineries, microbreweries and distilleries are making hand sanitizer. Garment and uniform companies are making masks. Schools are using 3D printers to produce face shields.
These examples demonstrate that small-scale approaches can be effective in producing big results. In contrast, larger organizations are more bureaucratic and slower to respond. These inverse economies of scale mirror civil defense efforts: Many working collectively but independently are sometimes more effective than a larger centralized effort.
When facing an unexpected crisis, some amount of disorganization is probably inevitable. But other countries, such as Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Nigeria and Australia, actively work to engage all citizens in disaster preparedness, first aid training and other efforts that give people clear and productive tasks to accomplish.
Following their example – and indeed the United States’ own history – could help create a system of federal oversight and coordination complemented by prepared and trained local responders. That could better prepare the public to pull together as a collective civic community when disaster next strikes.