Why Governments Fail to Respond Effectively When Things Go Wrong in a Big Way

Every day emergency personnel do courageous and heroic things without fanfare.  Children and the elderly are rescued from fires.  Ambulances transport the sick and injured to hospitals.  Police arrest and interrogate suspects and lock up criminals without incident.  When the big one happens government appears to be uncoördinated and things snowball out of control.  Finger pointing and explanations that don’t explain are offered ad nauseam to the public in the aftermath.

When things fail to go as “planned” it is not because of the plan but the lack of practicing the plan, the lack of plan review and the lack of testing of the emergency plan.  Emergency plans cannot be valid nor the assumptions they are based on are valid if the plan has never been tested.  No one ever asked elected officials during press conferences, “How many times was the emergency plan tested?”  May be you have heard the question asked but I have never heard the question posed.

The public is never updated when gaps in the planning process were overlooked or when the plan was found inadequate for any reason.  Everyday decisions are made to change roads and adding pavement that can cause future flooding.  Subdivisions are built without planning for the increased need for fire and police protection.  Traffic patterns are changed brining in more vehicles but no increased in law enforcement personnel accompanies the change, so we wait longer for law enforcement and emergency medical personnel to arrive on the scene to aid us.  Planning is a key element but more importantly is the need to test our plans and exercise them to make sure we get effective services to meet the challenges the plans show we need.



About managingemergencies

I am a professional consultant with 30 years of experience in managing emergencies. My background and skills gave me the foundation to start Systems Emergency Preparedness Consultants. If you need preparedness training or would like to have a preparedness discussion for your employees contact me via email at sysmanemerconsult@aol.com. I held various positions in the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department until I retired in 2007. As a emergency planner and trainer in the Prince George's County Office of Homeland Security I planned exercises and training for government agencies and citizens groups. I was appointed Fire Chief of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department in 2009. I started Systems Emergency Preparedness Consultants in June of that year. I had the opportunity to become the Assistant Fire Chief - Operations of the District of Columbia Fire/EMS Department and served for a year as the Interim Fire Chief. I am a trained mediator, mediator team leader and trainer. I also served as the Fire/EMS Department Equal Employment Opportunity Officer.
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2 Responses to Why Governments Fail to Respond Effectively When Things Go Wrong in a Big Way

  1. I agree with you about testing and planning. Last year that was a freak Ocotober snow storm in Connecticut and people started questioning why there was no previous plans for emergencies like these. Nowadays the government is taking more action in my state to become prepared.

    • Excellent, people have to be involved in helping government succeed. We can’t just let experience be our main source of learning. There are great minds throughout our society and many people have solutions to our problems, they just don’t have a platform to deliver those solutions. Government officials need to tap into their best resource, their people.

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