This audio interview with Adam Montella, Emergency Management & Homeland Security Expert, is no longer available.
This is the final installment in a series of 10 articles about the Discovery Channel Series The Colony, which followed the story of 10 volunteers living and working together in a simulated post-catastrophic environment.
For the last ten weeks, DPJ readers have followed the lives of the Colonists. Along the way the volunteers have worked exceptionally hard, fought (at times among themselves), and both laughed and cried – while remaining focused on their common overarching goal of survival in the wake of a global viral outbreak. With their resources all but gone at the start of this week’s final episode, and their safety and security at constant risk, the volunteers made a final push to beef up their defenses before leaving the warehouse for a new and more secure refuge somewhere out in the Great Beyond.
In their final hours in the warehouse, the volunteers received an encouraging radio message – from a transmitter more than 150 miles away – informing them that more than 100 other survivors were living together in a safe and secure location stocked with both food and water and other resources. The Colonists then went back to work, with renewed energy, in a race against time to complete the building of an ingeniously remanufactured “escape truck” while the “marauders” (who had been harassing them for the past two months) were planning a final offensive against the Colonists’ warehouse stronghold.
At the 10-week mark, this final installment looks back at what the Colonists learned (and passed on to viewers) as valuable lessons that can be applied to small and large disasters alike. The 10 articles in the DomPrep series reviewed those lessons each week and related them directly to the duties and responsibilities of those charged with planning for, responding to, and recovering from future disasters of virtually any magnitude.
- Week 1 highlighted the importance of creating a survival plan and building a disaster supply kit. When there is no working government, no infrastructure, and very limited resources, even a small disaster can put responders and victims at serious risk. Having a plan in place, and enough basic resources to be at least partly self-sufficient, can dramatically increase the chance of a group’s (or individual’s) survival.
- Week 2 examined the seemingly inevitable outbreak of looting and lawlessness that almost always follows catastrophic disasters. The Colonists’ own actionsentified the clear (but not always immediately discernible) differences between looting to survive and outright stealing. That week’s article also explored some “best practices” developed by a small coastal community in Florida and demonstrated how adherence to those practices would at least partly ensure that local residents and visitors can be relatively safe and out of harm’s way when an actual disaster strikes.
- Week 3 demonstrated the very real psychological effects that disasters can have on victims, responders, and even mental health professionals. Dr. Miatta Snetter, The Colony’s resident psychology expert, provided a list of stress-coping tips for responders.
- Week 4 examined the risk to responder safety and security caused by the residual effects of a major natural disaster. From rotting and/or crumbling debris and exposed power lines to wild animals and insects, the article highlighted some of the most common (but not always anticipated) dangers facing the survivors of most if not all major disasters.
- Week 5 explored the vital role played by individual leadership during (and after) a disaster, and underscored the importance of having in place a solid Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) as well as a chain of leadership succession for government, businesses, and even families to help ensure the continued survival of those who did not perish during or immediately after a disaster.
- Week 6 revealed the enormous problem posed by personnel and victim accountability (or lack thereof) following a major disaster and examined how determining an accurate death toll is in some circumstances all but impossible, particularly considering the number of people who unaccountably “go missing,” or otherwise are unaccounted for, during and in the wake of catastrophic events.
- Week 7 spotlighted the role of faith-based and community organizations during times of disaster. In every community across America, religious, civic, and social organizations (usually but not always working in partnership with government) play an important role in reaching their constituents and providing much-needed services and support to disaster victims.
- Week 8 examined the possible causes of a truly global future catastrophic disaster. In many countries throughout the world, unsafe cities, combined with the overall lack of government attention and poor economic conditions, enlarge and exacerbate the potential for a major catastrophic event.
- Week 9 looked at the resourcefulness of the Colonists in using their combined skills and knowledge, their environment – and the resources they found, scavenged, or looted – to build their way into a livable existence and out of the chaos in which they had been living for the past two months.
With the Colonists now headed for a presumably better life, all good things must come to an end. The Colonists certainly entertained and, of much greater importance, educated viewers as they unselfishly exposed their deepest fears and hopes, personal and collective shortcomings, and various minor and major triumphs – the “Exodus” to a presumably safer world being the greatest triumph – to an enthralled audience.
Probably the most important lesson learned from this ground-breaking social experiment was how the Colonists continued to survive by using the absolute ingenuity of the human mind and spirit – as well as humanity’s individual and collective abilities – not only to adapt but also to live and work together toward common goals, even in the face of crushing challenges, continuing hardships, and personal differences.
Adam Montella is vice president of homeland security and preparedness services for Previstar Inc. and a nationally known emergency-management and homeland-security professional with more than 23 years direct experience in both government and the private sector. He served as the first general manager of emergency management for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the period following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks and has served in many other emergency-management positions at all levels of government. A former member of the House Operations Recovery Team of the U.S. House of Representatives and of numerous local, state, national, and international emergency management associations, he also is a well known public speaker in his chosen field and a former recipient of Harvard University’s prestigious Innovations in American Government Award.