Emergencies caused by tsunamis, acts of terrorism, pandemic diseases, and hurricanes are just some of the real threats that every nation prepare for with earnest interest and vigor. It is true that these can never be predicted and some people may feel it’s impossible to prepare for something you can never predict to happen.
As a result, many people do not individually prepare and believe it is the government’s duty to give emergency preparedness and response the highest priority. It generally takes the largess of government as the most effective ways to deal with all sorts of disasters when they happen.
The ability to contain the effects of large-scale emergencies at one time is a true litmus test on the emergency preparedness of a nation and the speed at which the services can be delivered define the efficiency of the government’s ability to respond to the arising needs.
I would argue the U.S. governments failure in emergency preparedness was evident in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Who can forget those images of thousands of desperate people herded into the lawless Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans and the widespread dislocation of Gulf coast citizens in 2005?
When the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic broke out in America, we discovered again the fragility of our preparedness. President Trump complained of inheriting a broken preparedness system and resorted to declaring a national emergency that threw millions of Americans into unemployment as the economy was effectively shut down and people across the nation were ordered to shelter in place.
Emergency Preparedness Organizations
In the U.S., among those involved in the emergency preparedness and response efforts of the government include:
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through its Medical Countermeasures Initiative (MCI) and National Incident Management System (NIMS);
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC) through the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response;
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through its EPA Emergencies;
- Health and Human Services Public Health Emergency;
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Emergency Preparedness and Response;
- Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.
No one knows the kind of emergencies that may happen and the kind of needs that may arise from it but a government is duty-bound to protect the lives and the property of its citizens first and foremost. This is reflected in the nature of the agencies and offices that are involved in the management of disasters and the arising damages and crises. Hence, the basic elements of a disaster preparedness team emanate from those that deliver services and handle arising concerns on food, health, security, and logistics. Each component performs regular functions in line with their purpose of existence as a government agency but maintains special units that focus on preparing for emergencies.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is not only a part of the emergency preparedness of the nation, it is also equipped to protect the security of the nation against many odds and enemies through its Medical Countermeasures Initiative. Besides its role in emergency and crisis management, the FDA also plays an important role in securing the homeland through counterterrorism and emerging threats. This is accomplished by ensuring that there will be enough medicines and vaccines against possible bioterrorism aggressions.
The FDA was particularly visible in 2020 for its role of developing diagnostic tests for coronavirus and expanding testing capacity in the U.S. The FDA is working with U.S. government partners including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical product manufacturers, and international partners to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. Major focus areas for the FDA’s response activities include increasing the availability of testing, therapeutics, and devices such as ventilators and personal protective equipment, and many other important items necessary for the response.
While there are no currently FDA-approved therapeutics (drugs) to treat or vaccines to prevent COVID-19 or other coronaviruses, the FDA continues to work with vaccine developers and other researchers and manufacturers to help expedite the development and availability of medical products such as vaccines, antibodies, and drugs to prevent COVID-19.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
The CDC supposedly works round the clock with state as well as local health units to safeguard and save lives against health threats. It should play a crucial role in responding to infectious incidents that can endanger public health. It is also tasked to lead preparedness and response efforts on providing strategic direction, coordination and support across all its allied health groups anywhere within U.S. and international partners. In the wake following the incident, CDC also assists in the building and rebuilding of public health capabilities through funds and technical support. CDC works with other health-related entities in protecting and saving lives such as American Red Cross. Together, they do not only deliver health services but assist states and communities in their state-wide as well as local efforts to put in place their own emergency preparedness framework and systems related to public health.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
The U.S. Department of Agriculture plays a salient role in ensuring that disasters will not affect food production and is thus ready with assistance programs. Droughts, hurricanes, pests on crops and animals, wildland fires and oil spills are just some of the disasters that are dreaded. Assistance may come in the form of financial, technical and information in order that farmers, ranchers and the likes can get back on their feet in the aftermath of disasters.
It is true that disasters can never be foreseen or foretold which is why a government must have efficient emergency preparedness and response machinery that is oiled all the time. Many unexpected events can happen; September 11, 2001 is a constant reminder that anything can happen even to the most powerful nation in the world.