Local governments must lead from front during natural disasters
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America and its citizens are vulnerable at all times to natural disasters, be they hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, floods, fires, even volcanos. It is never a question of if - it is always questions of where and when disasters will strike.

With computer modeling, we can predict where these events are likely to occur with greater accuracy. Thus, we know areas of the country that are more likely to be affected by natural disasters. It makes sense to focus on areas of the country that are vulnerable and empower local authorities to take the lead in preparation and management, with the help of state and federal governments. 

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Every American should be issued an emergency response and identification card. This card would identify the person, his or her address and would contain life saving information like blood type, next of kin and other germane information.

 

The person would be required to give basic information, but a citizen could augment it with information they would want shared. The card would also contain information on where to report in the case of evacuation or to get supplies, and it would contain phone numbers and websites to get public instructions and updates.

In areas the government has deemed “high-risk” for natural disasters, local municipalities would have stockpiled supplies of bottled water, military-style meals, cots, blankets and medical supplies prepositioned in public buildings well in advance of any event.

Every citizen in affected areas would know in advance where they are to report locally to get supplies or to shelter. The supplies would be enough for three days for every person in every designated shelter or supply center. It has been said that the first three days in the aftermath of a disaster are the most critical in assessing and responding to natural disasters.

It will be the responsibility of local officials to let their citizens know through official communications in advance of disasters what every home MUST contain in preparation. If people are not able to afford supplies, they can petition the local authorities for flashlights, candles, radios, etc., free of charge. 

By stockpiling supplies locally, the government is assured that supplies are near and readily available. The ID cards will also make it easier for local governments to account for the people they are charged to protect.

The initial costs for localizing supplies and creating storage areas will be amortized over the shelf life of the supplies themselves, which today can be as much as 10 years for bottled water and meals ready to eat. In addition, toward the end of the shelf life of supplies, they can be given away to the needy so nothing goes to waste.

The governments closest to the people know their populations best. They are in the best position to provide the best preparation and response to natural disasters. Time is the most precious commodity in disaster relief, and the time it takes to amass and move supplies over great distances hampers responses to those in need.

The most important role of government is to prevent harm, not merely respond to it after the fact. It makes perfect sense for governments to rethink civil defense, and this would be a great place to start: empowering and supplying local governments.

Bradley A. Blakeman most recently was the president of Freedom’s Watch, a right-of-center advocacy 501 C4. Prior to founding Freedom’s Watch, Mr. Blakeman was a member of President George W. Bush’s senior staff, having served from 2001-2004 as deputy assistant to the president for appointments and scheduling, vetting and research, correspondence and surrogate scheduling.


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