Thank you for all the emergency preparedness questions called or emailed in during the fourth installmentÂ of the Brian Lehrer Show’s ‘Are You Ready’ series. Though I’m not sure I’m knowledgeable enough to be dubbed a preparedness guru, I hope the series wasÂ somewhat informative on an issue — public emergency preparedness –Â that doesn’t always get a lot of media attention.
For me, itÂ was really interesting and helpful to get all this feedback from listeners. I think it is reflective of the great interest, curiosity, confusion and yes, skepticism, of Americans when it comes to civilian preparedness. It is not a topic that comes up very often, particularly before a disaster, but I feel it is somewhere in everyone’s mind –Â what I would, should and could do if something serious happens.
That’s why I think there is a real need for a place where citizens can ask, and have answered, all their questions — some very small and personal and other broad and universal. Many don’t have aÂ single answer and others actually require the public itself to help the governmentÂ determineÂ the answer.Â Either way, it is very important that we raise them now rather than in the midst of a crisis.Â
To me,Â the public’s uncertaintyÂ needs toÂ be addressed head on if we are to make a dent in the nation’s current low level of publicÂ readiness.Â I would recommendÂ interactiveÂ web sites (and maybe even a 800#) where citizens couldÂ make inquiries about preparedness.Â Otherwise, it is not going to be done. AsÂ my four appearances on Brian’s show furtherÂ confirmed for me, there areÂ just too many questions and qualmsÂ among the public for any progress to be made on this.Â
Many of the questions I received wereÂ technology related, which is not surprising as new personal techÂ increasingly proliferates throughoutÂ our lives. Some I have never heard asked, let alone answered, until this week.
For example, during the show, aÂ caller asked whether hisÂ new phone service provided by his local cable operatorÂ would be useable during if theÂ power went down. It is a question I had not heard before.
I recommended that people keep a traditional plug-in phone, because theyÂ will usually work in a power failure. I also suggested that everyone have a backup battery for their cell phones as well.Â But I couldn’t answer this caller’s inquiry. There were subsquent posts with conflicting answers so the show decidedÂ as part of their Follow-Up Friday feature to check with a tech expert. The expert, Mario Armstrong, indicated that cable phone service uses VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) which wouldÂ likely be useable after a power outage for about 6-8 hours because there would be some backup power. Armstrong said that a cordless phone would die. However, an ‘old fashioned’Â POTS (plain old telephone service) corded landline will work.
This is the type of open sourceÂ teamworkÂ between the media and the public, adding correctÂ (andÂ knocking down incorrect) information, that is necessary to fully address the range of preparedness questions from the citizenry. ItÂ is important thatÂ these types of detailed questionsÂ areÂ addressed. It also underscores how much knowledge is out there among the citizenry and the importance of capitalizing thatÂ asset more than we do now.