A new survey released today shows that eight in 10 U.S. cities say they are unprepared for a mega 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina-type disaster. The U.S. Conference of Mayors surveyed 183 city administrators and found that 44 percent haven’t created or updated their evacuation plans and nearly three-quarters say they’re not prepared to deal with a flu pandemic.
While the survey findings are horrific, I’m sorry to say they’re not surprising. When it comes to crisis preparedness, it seems as if the prevailing mentality falls into one of several buckets:
1.) "Its’ not my job, man"
2.) "It won’t happen here"
3.) "We don’t have enough money to create or execute a plan"
By the way, this mindset is not unique to the public sector. I can distinctly remember a presentation to one Fortune 500 company in which we detailed how we’d simulate any number of potential crises, involve all of their line executives in the exercise and provide them with a report card and evaluation based upon our work with other large companies. I think we asked for $20k to handle the day-and-a-half simulation.
After waiting about a week for a response, we were told this multi-billion dollar, publicly-traded corporation didn’t have the budget to pay for the work!
You would think the individuals who control crisis planning budgets would understand the ramifications of their penny-wise, pound-foolish avoidance behavior. And, yet, today’s survey provides a reminder that, as we approach the fifth anniversary of 9/11, most of America remains woefully unprepared for the inevitable.
This widespread denial reminds me of a classic Casey Stengel quote. When the late NY Mets managers became totally exasperated by his team’s abysmal play, ol’ Casey screamed: "Can’t anyone here play this game?" Someone needs to play the role of Stengel and scream at our city’s mayors and corporate risk managers and break through their lethargy. The hour is late and the crisis is approaching.