Disaster planning requires long-term national effort

In the wake of natural disasters and possible terrorism and other public events, some of the nation's biggest nonprofits and federal agencies are calling on communities to partner in long-term planning.

In 2011 alone, natural disasters in the United States cost more than $55 billion, with 14 events costing more than a billion dollars in economic damages each, according to a National Research Council report sponsored by the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Homeland Security and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The report, which looked at Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa and California, noted that the nation can reduce the impact of disasters by building what it calls "resilience"--the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from and more successfully adapt to adverse events.

"… [M]any communities do not have a baseline of a population with access to preventative healthcare, adequate treatment for existing conditions, or access to medical records in an emergency," Susan C. Scrimshaw, president of The Sage Colleges, wrote in a contribution to the Huffington Post blog.

Part of the problem, according to Scrimshaw, is that congressional members can only see as far as their election term and might ignore long-term planning, the Times Union reported.

Scrimshaw noted resilience requires preparedness exercises, better local building codes and integrated community planning.

"The bottom line is that we need to take planning and preparation for emergencies seriously, and we need to have the will to make some difficult decisions around where and how we will build, maintaining a healthy and thus resilient population," Scrimshaw said. "We cannot wait for someone to save us."

A Missouri Hospital Association report in May encouraged hospitals to have and exercise emergency disaster plans. Although it's unlikely that that an [emergency operations plan] will ever provide exact response instructions, it does offer staff the critical thinking skills to anticipate and respond to a disaster.

For more information:
- check out the report (purchase required)
- read the Times Union article
- here's the Huffington Post column

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