It is interesting to stop for a moment and think, “How did we get here?” The emergency preparedness and response profession has come a long way, offering emergency preparers, responders, and receivers many more invaluable tools at their disposal than their counterparts had in previous years. Over time, plans and procedures have adapted to ever-evolving needs and environments. And technology has advanced beyond the imagination of their predecessors 50 years ago. However, for every advancement, a new challenge(s) emerges.
By solving one problem, people sometimes create others, which they are later tasked to resolve. Critical infrastructure, for instance, provides life-sustaining resources, but it ages and needs to be maintained and secured. The legalization of drugs provides some tax revenue, but it corresponds to a growing public health crisis. Information resources provide actionable data for emergency preparedness and response, but they can be corrupted or false.
For many innovative solutions, the potential negative cascading effects as well as ways to close gaps and overcome vulnerabilities must also be considered. In the cases of the electrical grid or drugs, overcoming the vulnerabilities created by a growing dependence now requires taking swift legal action to ensure the power stays on, people stay healthy, and life-sustaining resources remain available. For information resources, due diligence is needed to prevent the receipt or distribution of bad information, while leveraging reliable data in order to make well-informed decisions.
Nonetheless, the emergency preparedness profession is persistent, resourceful, and resilient. The Strategic National Stockpile, for example, has transformed from a resource to protect against biological and chemical attacks into a massive supply chain resource for a variety of health emergencies. Robust logistical capabilities are invaluable considering the public health threats the nation faces today and the ones yet to emerge tomorrow.
As 2019 comes to an end, DomPrep would like to thank all the practitioners who work diligently each day to protect their communities by reflecting on the lessons learned from the past year but continuing to look and plan toward the next. Now, the challenge questions for 2020 are, “Where do we want to go?” and “How do we plan to get there?”