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Disaster Preparedness

Researchers from the non-profit Rand Corp. looked at the ability of local agencies to meet federal standards for responding to urgent-case reports of infectious diseases like bubonic plague, anthrax or botulism.

Of 19 local public health agencies called in 18 states, only two met the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s standards, which include prompt return of calls, being put in touch with someone who knew about the disease being reported and the ability of the agency to handle problems 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Read the whole story, “Local Health Agencies Faulted on Bioterror Response Times,” in Forbes. And please explain to me that we’re more prepared for terrorists than we were four years ago. But before you do:

In one instance, after being given a description of the classic symptoms of bubonic plague, a public health worker told the caller not to worry and to “go back to sleep,” because no other cases had been reported.

6 comments on "Disaster Preparedness"

  • beri says:

    “Am I the only one in the country who is outraged and disgusted (and frightened) by the inability of the US Government to respond to this crisis? With two major military bases (FT Hood and Ft Bliss) in Texas, not so far away, how is it that the government is unable to organize even a simple thing like evacuating patients from hospitals?
    This is worse than the third world. At least they have the excuse of not having the resources to deal with disasters. I bet all those “small government, less government” types are having a hard time right now.”

  • Anonymous says:

    Nah, us small government types are having a great time. If government were less bloated and inefficient, maybe they could deal with crises, instead of appointing blue-ribbon commissions to consider the causes of their failures.

  • Iang says:

    Good. Get more disgusted – it might help 🙂
    Governments are traditionally terrible at handling disasters. They generally handle last year’s disaster the best, but that’s a relative best, not a useful absolute. Most all disasters are handled by the people having the information, and spending in advance for preparation.
    The hurricane that we’ve just seen is a regular occurrence in the Caribbean. Although a Cat 5 is rare, it is not unknown and most islanders have living memory of them. Florida in 2004 was a wake-up for all of the US, as was North Carolina. There is literally no way that the people or the government could say that they didn’t know of this risk.
    What people do is simple – they ignore the information if the government mollycoddles them, or they build proper houses if they have to deal themselves. In this case, it is pretty clear that the information was as much “in your face” as it could get. So you ask your government to respond to such crises and that’s what you’re going to get. Time to try another strategy?

  • Adam says:

    Incidentally, this is about future disasters, and our (current)
    failure to prepare for them.

  • John Kelsey says:

    So, the scale of the New Orleans disaster is enormous and terrifying. But wasn’t this kind of horrible 9/11 scale or worse disaster what we were supposed to be spending lots of money preparing for? Given this, is there any reason to think a terrorist attack on a similar scale would have been handled better? (I really don’t know the answer to that, I’m just asking. Maybe we’re prepared for a 15kt nuke in Chicago, just not for a category 4 hurricane in New Orleans. But I’m a bit skeptical….)

  • Adam says:

    It’s a great point, and one that has the folks at the Counterterror blog very worried. Me, I believe the government when they tell me that if I give them my social security number, nothing bad will happen.
    Or perhaps not.

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