Hmmm..I’m hungry, but dont feel like going out for groceries. Fortunately, it’s an easy thing overcome. 2006 was a good year for beef, so I pull 2# of vacuum-sealed 80/20 ground beef outta the deep freeze. Theres cases of jars of spaghetti sauce on the shelves, so I grab one of those. Theres also about 40# of various pastas, so a pound of penne will come with me to the kitchen. And, since part of the reason theres so much of this stuff is because I buy it when its on sale, the whole meal costs about…mmm….$4 and will easily serve three people. Annnnnnnnnd…….thats how we roll.
Did 9/11 change the way that this country thinks about civil preparedness? In my utterly worthless and unfounded opinion, no. I think the potential is certainly there for the events of 9/11 to be a catalyst for a new era of civil defense but I don’t think its happened. To be sure, .gov started flinging money around to, it seems, any municipality that asked for it. Grants for hazmat training, grants for protective gear, etc, etc….an excellent opportunity for a town or city to get itself prepared. Has anyone taken advantage of that? I’m sure many have, to some degree or another, but I think many more haven’t.
I think part of the reason there hasn’t been a renaissance in civil defense is that there’s an attitude of ‘its too painful to think about’ and ‘worry about it when it happens’. Even if the .gov were to drop. Say. $10 million on the governing body of Anytown, USA, there’d be a dozen committee’s, panels, commissions, advocacy groups and others demanding that the money be used to fit their particular vision of whats needed. Worse, in some cases the money is used to pull money from elsewhere. I had a customer with a local sherriff’s department who was lamenting the the lack of guns and ammo for training. I asked him if his department had gotten any Homeland Security grants or funding. He said that they had gotten $80k earmarked for their department. I asked what happened to it. He said the county commission simply pulled $80k from the sheriffs budget and used it elsewhere…this way the $80k did technically go where it was supposed to.
On the other hand, you can’t realistically expect the out-of-towners to dictate where the money has to go. After all, wouldn’t it make sense that the chier of police or the fire department would have a better idea of what they need than some guy in Washington with a clipboard who has never even been to RFD #3?
We used to have a Civil Defense program in this country. It was an embarrassment compared to other countries but at least it was an effort. Relics of the program can still be seen in the black-and-yellow fallout shelter signs that still adorn many public buildings. (As an aside, I saw my first one in Montana the other day at the local high school. When I grew up in NY every school and some apartment buildings had the signs on them, with caches of ‘supplies’ tucked away in some dark corner of the building.) The programs eventually were folded into FEMA and the shelter programs, which were already languishing, were abandoned, I believe, in the late 80’s or very early 90’s. There are still, however, mounds of the old CD shelter supplies quietly rotting away in the dark wet basements of courthouses and schools all around this country.
Since 9/11 the other major disaster was hurricane Katrina. You would think that watching videos from that even would convince people that local government needs to take a serious stand on civil preparedness and defense. However, I’d be surprised if the folks in Louisiana have done much more than prepare for the next event by having their excuses and blame games transcribed to laminated cards.
On the other hand, 9/11 and Katrina did change the way the people of this country think about preparedness. Preparedness has gone a bit more mainstream, and although the stereotype of some gun-toting, camouflage-clad redneck misanthrope remains as the image people think of when they think ‘survivalists’, I think more people are coming around to our way of thinking.
And, still, the public sector lags behind the private sector in terms of preparedness. I’m sure there are people reading this now who work in some capacity for their local municipality and they’ll say in comments that their agency has been buying new fire trucks/body armour/hazmat suits/etc, and while thats great it’s still a drop in the bucket. Even if local governments couldnt afford to set something up you would think they would do their best to strongly encourage and support people who take the responsibility for their own preparedness seriously.
Perhaps its natural selection in action…the prepared will come out of the disaster just fine and the .gov that failed to prepare gets voted out next election, however given Nagin’s ability to retain his job I dont have much hope for the future.