The task force believes the Department of Homeland Security has done just that with this week's National Level Exercise (NLE), conducted by FEMA, which simulated a massive earthquake along the Midwest's New Madrid fault line.
"By raising the possiblity of a catastrophic earthquake—something that is likely not on the minds of many Midwesterners—the NLE can have the dual positive effect of pushing responders beyond their traditional mindsets and alerting the public at-large of the risk," according to the task force, which hopes citizens will not only become aware of the risk, but make preparations themselves so they can survive a slow or nonexistent government response.
The task force also argues that communities must honestly evaluate where their acceptable risk threshold is and make the necessary investments based on that decision.
"If the risk is below that threshold, we accept the risk and move on," the report states. "If it is above the threshold, we invest in ways to mitigate that risk in an effort to prevent unacceptable loss of life and property, and ensure an effective response can be mounted and that core services are restored."
The ability to do this, however, will take political courage and a razor sharp communication strategy, the task force admits.
As one task force member quoted in the report put it: "No elected official is going to stand up and say that 1,000 lives lost is an acceptable level of risk."
The report's release comes in reaction to PPD-8 and recent disasters involving tornados and floods in the South and Midwest of the United States and the Japanese tsunami, said Daniel Kaniewski, task force co-chair and deputy director of HSPI.
♦ Photo by James Buck/Flickr