Do you think we are prepared for impending disasters? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, according to Scott Knowles, a professor at Drexel University who recently published a book titled “The Disaster Experts: Mastering Risk in Modern America”, when it comes to disaster preparedness, ‘we are screwed’. This can be attributed to the fact that since 9/11, federal policies have focused solely on issues regarding terrorism. As a result, preparation for other disasters has been put aside.
About 10-15% of the Homeland Security resources go to emergency management, while over 30% is allotted to security and terrorism measures. According to Knowles, we are not preparing for disasters we know WILL happen but rather we are getting prepared for disasters we think MAY happen. He cites the change from the Clinton to the Bush administration as being one of the reasons emergency management has not been given the kind of attention it deserves.
In his book he asks questions such as: is creating an elaborate set of fire codes for buildings, and then allowing structures like the Twin Towers—tall, impressive, and risky—to go up as design experiments logical? Why prepare for terrorist attacks above all else when floods, fires, and earthquakes pose far more consistent threats to American life and prosperity?
Knowles focuses on broader issues, such as poverty reduction, education, and land use restrictions, when discussing changes needed to make disaster mitigation successful. He states that a collaborative effort from insurance agents, journalists, scientist, civil engineers, and public officials is needed in order to effectively prepare for and respond to disasters.
Visit this link to read an interview he did with the Philadelphia City Paper.
Picture: Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania Press.