Today there has been a litany of articles written about the 20th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew in Florida. Headlines such as “Lack of hurricanes worrisome” or “Have years of no hurricanes made us complacent?” What these articles fail to mention is the crisis within the crisis which will happen. It will happen very soon here in the US. We saw it in Japan, Haiti and New Zealand. Information will be flow at a velocity never seen before. It will effect the way response is delivered and the tone of recovery.
Moore’s law says that every 18 months integrated circuits will double. Meaning that technologies improve at a rapid pace increasing speed and capabilities of technologies. I don’t think that Congress has appropriated resources and authorities at the speed of Moore’s law, but it needs too.
It’s been five years since Hurricane Ike but there hasn’t been substantive changes to policy or appropriations which will support the modernization and transformation of emergency management. How can that happen when daily operating budgets are being slashed across the board?
In 2011 according to Columbia University, the cuts that were made to emergency management are staggering. Regional Catastrophic Preparedness program was cut by 58% from $33.6M to $14.1M, the Emergency Operations Center program was cut by 75% from $57.6M to 14.1M and overall the funding that supports state and locals were cut across the board from $1.8 billion to $1.3 billion—a 28% cut.
Programs are bracing for the cuts to continue or the discontinuation of services. Last summer, someone shared with me that their city EOC's funding was cut and they eliminated their only GIS person. Now there is an EOC with GIS equipment that nobody knows how to use.
To be fair, this isn’t just emergency management problem, almost every kind of organization is going through some kind of austerity. It seems like we are in a perfect storm: a world speeding ahead with technology and an economic environment where improvement may have to compete with daily operations.
Thinking of those extremes, with a world and populations moving faster than the ability of organizations to keep pace, are we racing towards a new kind of a digital divide?
With every cut and shift in priorities today that public safety has to make, the gap grows wider. You can’t optimize everything. What are we really sacrificing? Is it the 28% cut of services that we see today, or something even deeper, the ability to keep pace with the transformation of society and how that will shape the future of emergency management?