In 2020, literally everyone was affected in some way by crisis. In certain areas, communities endured other disasters in addition to the worldwide pandemic. Some people fared well, some are struggling, and some will not see 2021. However, amid the illnesses, economic uncertainties, and social and political unrest, there are signs of progress. For more than two decades, DomPrep has published many articles written by practitioners on the preparedness gaps that exist in leadership, supply chains, interoperability, incident management, and so on. For more than two decades, those same practitioners have provided possible solutions and roadmaps for closing those gaps. However, sometimes it takes experiencing the disaster in order to invest the time and resources necessary to actually close the gaps.
Yes, many communities did not heed the numerous worst-case warnings, did not adequately prepare for the possibility of a worldwide pandemic, and were slow in responding to a threat that they thought would end with little intervention. As the case numbers continue to grow, preparedness professionals have been offered an opportunity to see their efforts come to fruition and help close critical gaps. The need for high-performing leaders who can make quick decisions and take decisive action is not a confrontational idea, yet high-performing leaders are not always the ones in charge when disaster strikes. The crises in 2020 have spotlighted the leaders who were able to meet the numerous new challenges they faced and provide a vision for recovery beyond the crisis.
Even once communities enter the recovery phase, though, there is still much work to do beyond the current crisis – for example, planning and preparing for the next black swan event. One simple yet poignant takeaway from 2020 is that pandemics can happen. The realization that a worst-case scenario from that interagency exercise practiced last year could emerge at any time is crucial for building community resilience.
As 2021 rapidly approaches, there are signs of hope that some long-term preparedness gaps may be closing: rapid vaccine development, innovative police reform, and other community resilience efforts. What communities need is a cohesive approach to disaster preparedness. The interesting thing about a worldwide crisis is that everyone is in it together (whether they realize it or not). Now is the time to identify and leverage the preparedness opportunities that emerged in 2020 and build on them in 2021 to create more cohesive and more resilient communities.
Catherine L. Feinman
Catherine L. Feinman, M.A., joined Domestic Preparedness in January 2010. She has more than 30 years of publishing experience and currently serves as editor of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, DomesticPreparedness.com, and the DPJ Weekly Brief, and works with writers and other contributors to build and create new content that is relevant to the emergency preparedness, response, and recovery communities. She received a bachelor’s degree in international business from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management from American Military University.