Think Again: Don't take public safety net for granted

While the consumerism around July 4th is hard to avoid, planning barbecues, having friends over and watching fireworks give me pause to reflect on things that I appreciate about our country.

I spent the last week in senior-level emergency preparedness training for the Incident Management System, which is part of the federal National Incident Management System structure and sponsored by the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency (FEMA). It’s the system that is used by public safety organizations across the country to manage recovery efforts in a wide variety of disruptions in our cities and communities, whether caused by natural or man-made disasters.

While the system can be used in even small instances, it’s more readily observed in action during larger scale events, such as the Station fire in 2009 or the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast. More recently it was being used to manage the situation with the fires in Colorado and the severe windstorms that hit the mid-Atlantic states, knocking out power to millions for an extended period of time.

The FEMA training taught me what it takes behind the scenes to manage through and recover from such situations, something we often take for granted. We have an amazing public safety net in place in the U.S. -- a network of local, state and federal level organizations and private companies that ensure our society can bounce back from calamities.

We know how to respond in the event of disasters, not only in our own country, but around the world. We’re not always perfect, and are quick to criticize recovery times when they last more than a day, but perhaps we’ve become spoiled by having our expectations raised too far.

It’s a reminder that we also have individual responsibility in preparing ourselves and our families for unexpected situations. We live in an area of the country where there are increased risks for natural disasters, earthquakes, fires and windstorms. If the unexpected hits tomorrow, each household needs to have a certain level of self-sufficiency until help arrives, which in many instances could be days or weeks.

If your family doesn’t have an emergency preparedness plan, it’s time to think this through and there is plenty of information online on how to put one together, everything from communications to food, shelter and water.
For example, do you have an adequate supply of drinking water at home or in your car? Do you carry basics, like sneakers and water in your car? What if the “big one” hits and roads are closed and you have to walk for miles to get home?

The point is that we should never take things for granted, oblivious to our surroundings or thinking it always happens in some distant place far away from home. And certainly we should not take for granted the amazing public safety net we have around us no matter where we are in our country.

Our public safety organizations and other essential city services are constantly thinking through and preparing for the worst-case scenarios. That level of preparation is something we don’t normally see on the surface until disaster strikes. A large part of the world does not have this level of sophistication, organization and resources.

So take a moment to appreciate how fortunate we are to be living in a country, where there is infrastructure in place to maintain a quality of life that doesn’t exist in many other countries. Then take a moment to ask whether you and your family are prepared to take care of yourself for a period of time in case the “big one” hits.

Your answer could be a matter of survival for you and your family.

ZANKU ARMENIAN is a resident of Glendale and a corporate communications and public affairs professional.  He can be reached at

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