Politicians are tasked with safeguarding and ensuring the resiliency of our nation during its most critical times. During these critical times, the citizenry looks toward our leaders for direction and answers. Arguably now more than ever, the expectations that we hold our elected officials to are higher than ever. With the digital age coming in and the more dependent we become upon technology, coupled with the increasingly urgent demand from the population for crisis preparedness, prevention, and response we will consequently leave ourselves more vulnerable than ever to invasions of privacy, vulnerabilities to our critical infrastructure, and opportunities for fraud, corruption, and misinformation. If any of the previous incidents were to occur our society would instantly turn to our elected officials to seek immediate answers.
Politicians themselves are still human, as hard as that is to believe. They go through a thought process, have to make sense of the situation, come up with a plan and a way to implement it, see it through and then learn from it just like the rest of us. Politicians are often seen as these figures that are supposed to know everything at all times and be able to prevent or handle the incident before or as soon as it arises. But people make mistakes, they don’t see the full picture, or they aren’t prepared to handle it in the first place. As a politician, these mistakes are multiplied in severity and noticed by the public tenfold. In the worst-case scenarios the politicians and elected officials are the difference between life and death. In the fine print of their job title, elected officials are responsible for the well being of their constituents and the livelihood of the society itself. That entails recognizing, averting or at least minimizing the effects of the disaster, and persuading and ensuring the public that the crisis doesn’t happen again.
The expectations that citizens hold for the elected officials and the expectation from citizens during a crisis are at two different ends of an imaginary spectrum. The first part I covered a little bit above. Our society holds our elected officials to an extremely high standard and hardly do we accept mistakes that are made. This is on the contrary of what is stated in the textbook. They state that “Crises will continue to challenge leaders for a simple reason: the disruptions that cause crises in our systems cannot be prevented… Crises, then, are the result of multiple causes, which interact over time to produce a threat with devastating potential.” (Boin, et. al. pg. 5) However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the expectations regarding the citizenry are sort of in a grey area. The Pew Research Center noted that the distrust in the government directly correlates to the wellbeing of the nation – our economy, the employment rate, and our international relations. (How Americans View Government) They also note that a majority of the population is frustrated with the government, not angry at it. Which is a big difference. They note that the frustration impacts the “quality and nature of the dialogue between the American public and its leaders in Washington.” With this disconnect, it allows the citizenry to assume the first news clip they see, or the first article they read, consequently leaving room for misconceptions to occur.
Personally speaking, I’ve noticed that during a crisis, our society is split. Some people know how prepare, survive and help others in need. They do their research, know how to prepare themselves and their family against whatever crisis is going to occur or is occurring, and respond to the crisis with a level head and have an ability to lead those around them to safety or preparedness. The other half is totally lost, not only do they panic – endangering themselves and those around them – but they also look for assistance from anyone who is in the area. They think the world revolves around them and truly believe that they need to be the first ones saved or brought assistance. When in actuality they could have prepared themselves for the crisis prepared their family and could have made the outcome of said crisis a little better. FEMA states that 60% of Americans do not prepare for disasters – even when they know they’re coming. This is despite the fact that 80% of individuals live in areas that have been impacted by some form of weather related incidents. (FEMA, 2015) These facts astound me: and further reinforce my hypothesis. It is actually 10% more than what I had expected. Americans have gotten lazy in their resiliency and again, personally speaking, I believe that they have become dependent upon the government – even though they love criticizing and responding negatively to our elected officials.
The whole crisis management, leadership, preparedness, and resiliency for all crises depends upon the process from start to finish. It needs to be an all-inclusive plan. Private sector, public sector, and the citizenry all needs to be involved so they are all on the same page and know what is going to happen, when it’s going to happen and who/how it’s going to be responded to. The policy makers are responsible for the stakeholder’s property and the resiliency to those properties. Therefore, an all-inclusive plan is of the utmost importance because without one, once a disaster hits – it’s beyond late. Once a crisis arises, the first thing to do is to collect as much accurate information as possible so it can be processed and given to the elected officials to look over and devise a course of action. Once a plan is envisioned then it needs to be passed off, communicated and relayed to the stakeholders and the general public. If everyone is on the same page then a response can be coordinated and executed accurately and responsively. (Andrianopoulos, 2015) If not then there will be chaos and massively negative outcomes, i.e. Katrina, Sandy, the wildfires in California, Irene and many others. The mindset of “its not going to happen to me” is not a valid preparedness plan.
Over the course of a couple decades, elected officials have fostered this idea that they will be there for society. Protect them, the country, and their investments. In turn, society has become dependent upon the national government to safeguard their wellbeing, protect our critical infrastructure, the stakeholder’s investments, as well as, maintain the livelihood of our social fabric. When in actuality, every crisis, natural disaster, or emergency occurs, it is the local governments responsibility to handle the situation and progress up the chain of command if they are not able to handle the situation. There is no way possible that the federal government can handle every type of disaster. After all, we live in a bureaucratic democracy. Sure, we elect officials that we believe will have our best interest at heart and will to the best for our nation as a whole. But, those elected officials have a very rigid and strict system of operations that they have to follow in order to request assistance. That means that every crisis starts at the local level and progresses up from there. If the local government cannot handle the crisis then they look to the state government. If, for whatever reason the state government cannot handle the crisis either, they then request assistance from the federal government. Depending upon the mood of the sitting President, a request for assistance could be acknowledged the same day or it could take a couple days. Regarding a natural disaster in particular, FEMA could be on hold for at least 3 days depending upon the weather conditions, the time it takes to process the request, or the state of emergency itself. Therefore, society as a whole should have the mindset of “protect myself first, then seek assistance.” Rather than, “it won’t happen to me.”