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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

New Book Offers State/Local Homeland Security Models, Asks ‘Would You Pay To Prepare Yourself & Your Family?’ (Almost One-Third Of Israelis Said ‘Yes’)

November 18th, 2009 · No Comments

I was just sent an interesting new book, Safeguarding Homeland Security: Governors And Mayors Speak Out (Springer), edited by Simon Hakim and Erwin A. Blackstone. The book is comprised of individual chapters written, as the title indicates, primarily by state and local officials about their own experiences with some aspect of homeland security.

Several of the contributions focus on citizen and community preparedness, including Houston Mayor Bill White on  his city’s response effort in the Katrina aftermath and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on the creation of his town’s Medical Reserve Corps.

The chapter that I found most thought provoking (especially from a citizen/community preparedness angle) was by Alan Kirschenbaum from the Israel Institute of Technology who has written frequently on his nation’s public readiness efforts. In his contribution, “Disaster Management: Privatization as a Viable Alternative,” Kirschenbaum looks at the use of the “private market to prepare for and respond to disasters” particularly in the area of citizen preparedness (The role of the private sector in homeland security is a theme that runs through much of the book.)

Safeguarding Homeland Security: Governors And Mayors Speak Out, Simon Hakim, Erwin Blackstone, 1441903704

Kirschenbaum reports on a public survey that was conducted by Israel’s Home Front Command earlier in the decade to determine how many households were “Ready to Pay for Disaster-Related Services Provided by Private Organizations.”

The results indicated that almost a third of Israelis were willing to pony up to pay the private sector for products/services, including: “supply food and water,” “prepare children in schools in emergency,” “have electric supply if stoppage” “evacuate to safe place if necessary.” The survey also found that interest in purchasing these services was driven less by economic status by age and family situation (ie. the respondents most interested were young families.)

So, what’s the takeaway from that study for U.S. citizen preparedness? (And, there is a lot that Israel can teach us on this subject.) Clearly, Israelis face a more prevalent threat than Americans, particularly in regard to terrorism, but they also enjoy a more robust citizen preparedness system. The survey results did indicate that at least a third of Israelis would like more than what the government was providing in the area of civil defense. I would venture that the number is at least as high here in the U.S.. The question is how do you (if you do) fill the gap between what the public wants/needs and what government can provide.

One way, as has been discussed on this blog, is to bring the private sector into citizen preparedness in the same way they have been involved in disaster response. There is a need to develop integrated marketing/awareness campaigns on national/state/local level with major consumer brands who are in the preparedness-related product and services business (e.g. personal tech, water, big box stores) to make preparing far easier and far less expensive for the public. 

You can purchase Safeguarding Homeland Security here (n.b. the cost is $139.oo).

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