One of the things I constantly battle against as an emergency manager is the "flavor of the month" approach to emergency management. This is our tendency to only focus on preparing for an event when it's about to smack us in the face.
A good example is the current scare over Ebola. I mean, it's not like we've ever had to deal with such a deadly disease, is it. Remember how we panicked when H1N1 reared it's head a few years ago? And before that, SARS scared us silly. We also have the example of the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed around 50 million people. Yet are we prepared for a pandemic? Doesn't look like it, judging from the way things have been handled so far. So we're jumping through hoops to craft strategies that could have been put in place years ago.
And recent news here in California will come as a surprise to many: there's a serious risk of a major earthquake in the Bay Area! A recent paper in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America found the following:
From mean accumulation rates, we infer that four urban faults appear to have accumulated enough seismic moment to produce major earthquakes: the northern Calaveras (M 6.8), Hayward (M 6.8), Rodgers Creek (M 7.1), and Green Valley (M 7.1). The latter three faults are nearing or past their mean recurrence interval.
Suddenly everyone is talking about earthquake preparedness. as if we've never even considered such a thing before, even though we had a 6.0 earthquake in Napa less than two months ago.
Wake up people! The world is not a safe place. If you live in the Bay Area, earthquakes are a fact of life. Just because some scientists published a paper reinforcing what we've know all along doesn't mean that the risk of an earthquake in the Bay Area has changed from yesterday. It has been and still is high, just as it is for Seattle and Los Angeles. And Ebola has been around for years - we've actually dealt with an outbreak in the US before (read Richard Preston's 1994 book, The Hot Zone if you want some sleepless nights). We just haven't bothered to do anything about Ebola because it wasn't "in our face".
So stop living in fear every time Fox News needs to raise its ratings. If you're really worried about the end of the world as we know it, get off your dead butt and do something about your personal preparedness. And sleep soundly - I guarantee the world will not end tonight.