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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

WMD Commission Report Highlights Role Of Citizen In Preparing And Protecting Nation

January 14th, 2009 · 9 Comments

Late last year, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism released a new report, “World At Risk”. The bipartisan commission is chaired by former U.S. Senator Bob Graham and co-chaired by former U.S. Senator Jim Talent.

As this blog was on hiatus when the report was released, I did not have a chance to mention it. However, I wanted to note its important suggestions on how the public can help make the nation more secure from and prepared for the threat of WMD’s.

The report’s final chapter, titled “The Role of the Citizen”, recommends that “the next administration must work to openly and honestly engage the American citizen, encouraging a participatory approach to meeting the challenges of the new century.” And it adds the following “action” steps:

ACTION: The federal government should practice greater openness of public information so that citizens better understand the threat and the risk this threat poses to them.

ACTION: The next administration should, as a priority, work with a consortium of state and local governments to develop a publicly available checklist of actions each level of government should take to prevent or ameliorate the consequences of WMD terrorism. Such a checklist could be used by citizens to hold their governments accountable for action or inaction.

ACTION: The federal government should seek to strengthen its ties with immigrant and second-generation populations, especially from the Middle East and Asia, to encourage greater engagement and investment by private U.S. citizens in improving the civil and cultural institutions of foreign partners.

ACTION: As a priority of the next administration, the Secretary of Homeland Security should release a set of recommendations on which citizens can act to improve preparedness against potential WMD attacks. Such recommendations could range from following the Red Cross disaster preparedness guidelines to encouraging their workplaces and children’s schools to prepare emergency plans.

The next administration has a chance to reengage the public in establishing a culture of preparedness. Within the first six months, the next Secretary of Homeland Security, building on the wide range of knowledge located in think tanks, state and local governments, universities, and other centers of expertise, should release a set of clear and specific actions that citizens can take to improve their preparedness for WMD attacks.

Educating the public on the unfamiliar and sometimes offputting topic of preparing the public for WMD’s is a challenging task for government, but it is very a necessary one. I congratulate the Commission for highlighting and accelerating that process.

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