Wouldn’t it be great if the US had a policy for preventing the kinds of tragedies that just occurred in Florida?

Wouldn’t it be great if “the whole community—from community members to senior leaders in government knew what to do upon the discovery of an imminent threat”?

If there was only a policy that would help us to “achieve the National Preparedness Goal of a secure and resilient Nation that is optimally prepared to prevent” disaster-related deaths and injuries within the United States.

If we only had “a framework that could provide guidance to individuals and communities, the private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based organizations, and all levels of government (local, regional/metropolitan, state, tribal, territorial, and Federal) to prevent, avoid, or stop a threatened” disaster by:

  • “Describing the core capabilities needed to prevent an imminent threat
  • Aligning key roles and responsibilities to deliver Prevention capabilities in time-sensitive situations;
  • Describing coordinating structures that enable all stakeholders to work together; and
  • Laying the foundation for further operational coordination and planning that will synchronize Prevention efforts within the whole community”

The good news: I’ve just described the National Prevention Framework.

The bad news: It excludes all disasters, except only terrorism.

Wait a minute….although it is cheaper, more effective, and more humane, the US National Prevention Framework excludes prevention from 99% of all US disasters, except terrorism? Yes, it does.

One must ask, “WHY?”

What is the very good reason for this obvious absence? And how does it reflect the Federal government’s “duty to protect” its citizenry as a functional modern state? I’m not able to find a good answer. (That’s usually a sign that something isn’t right).

Why does the US not have an “all-hazards” National Prevention Framework?

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, there is an organized process for the whole community to achieve preparedness. “The National Preparedness System integrates efforts across the five preparedness mission areas—Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery—in order to achieve the goal of a secure and resilient Nation. “

But, oddly enough, the scope of these Frameworks are very narrow when it comes to prevention and protection, and very broad when applied to mitigation, response and recovery.

A single-hazard national framework is simply bad policy.

Compare prevention to the other mission areas in this excerpt from page 7 of the DHS/FEMA National Prevention Framework:

“Prevention: The capabilities necessary to avoid, prevent, or stop a threatened or actual act of terrorism.

Protection: The capabilities necessary to secure the homeland against acts of terrorism and manmade or natural disasters.

Mitigation: The capabilities necessary to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters.

Response: The capabilities necessary to save lives, protect property and the environment, and meet basic human needs after an incident has occurred.

Recovery: The capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident to recover effectively”

WHY do we wait for tragedies to happen and then hope (against hope)?

Why does US policy ignore disaster prevention?


  • Dr.Rengarajan Parthasarathy says:

    Great idea!
    In fact, we have to
    1) universalize the methods to identify the hazards well in advance
    2) find economical and effective ways to avoid the disasters and
    3) create awareness and preparations locally.
    Also Disaster Prediction should be taught from school level.
    I am surprised why management institutions of repute have not taken up Disaster Identification and Management as
    a subject of specialization? Protecting lives and wealth is as important as that of creating wealth by corporates.

  • Erik Auf der Heide says:

    Right on!

    • Mark Keim says:

      Thank you, Erik. Folks, Erik AufderHeide is one of top mentors that started me on the path of disaster planning. I’m so thankful to have his guidance

  • Matt says:

    This is why we need properly qualified Emergency Managers (Not to be confused with emergency services and response) who have undertaken specific studies in disasters and who are properly resourced, and authorised. It is their role to develop systems and processes to prevent or mitigate disasters. We need educational and career pathways for practitioners where they can build their skills, knowledge, experience and careers. 

    The global community can no longer afford to place unqualified person in these positions, to tick a box when we know without a doubt that these types of events will continue, we need people who are specialised and whose knowledge has been evaluated.

    Emergency Management is a unique discipline progressing towards becoming a profession. We need to treat it as such and demand more from governments. These are the individuals that help to educate and empower communities.

  • TJ says:

    This is an interesting idea which deserves some serious thought. I agree that the NPF is narrow, and possibly too narrow, in its focus on terrorism. That said, with numerous types of natural disasters in particular, it’s difficult to see how prevention would, or could, differ from mitigation. Hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and many types of floods, for example, cannot be prevented, but they don’t have to be disasters if the right mitigation measures are put in place.

    Conceptually, I think both prevention and mitigation can be put under the umbrella of disaster risk reduction (DRR) if we want to have a coherent framework for addressing these issues (see Sendai Framework, for example). It also seems to me that intentional acts are often categorically different in terms of prediction and prevention so, for me, it’s an open question as to whether terrorism needs to be handled completely differently or can be accommodated into an all hazards approach since other elements including response and recovery especially, may be very similar to any other kind of event.

    But your point remains a good one. The U.S. system is still heavily influenced by the events of 9/11 and, in my view, the terrorism-specific elements are not well integrated .

    • Mark Keim says:

      All good points! TY
      With respect to prevention and mitigation, we know that all diseases have social, technological, economic, environmental and political detrminants (to name a few). Mitigation doesn’t address the human aspects of race, ethnicity, gender, age, income, etc that are known risk factors for disaster-related disease. Thus the need for prevention that involves more than structural or proceduralk mitigation.

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