Chertoff: Planning for disaster requires everyone
And I want to go and say this is not only, again, a responsibility that individuals have to take for their own sakes, but it's kind of a civic responsibility. Because when people are able- bodied and they don't prepare themselves, what's going to happen is they're to force first responders to attend to their needs instead of focusing on the needs of people who can't help themselves. This is about the able-bodied and those who are you know, who have the financial wherewithal taking the steps to make sure that the emergency responders can deal first with those who need the most help.
And in this regard, I'm going to reiterate something I've said in a couple of occasions elsewhere about businesses as well. Continuity of operations is not just a question of responsibility to shareholders or to business stakeholders. It has to do with responsibility to the community. I can tell you that in Hurricane Wilma last year, there was plenty of oil and gas stored up. There was plenty of fuel at the gas stations that could be used so people could gas their cars up and get to the grocery store. So we didn't need to worry about delivering food to them. But none of that gas could get out of the ground, out of the tank underground if you didn't have a generator. And so, if we wanted generators, hours and days of recovery were slowed up, so that we could gas cars up and get people to work, you know, get the power lines working again, and get the whole system started up again.
And I've challenged the oil companies, who are certainly are not financially hurting these days, to make sure that the gas stations, that the franchisees have those generators. It's part of the civic responsibility to make sure that a breakdown in that business doesn't cause a ripple effect across society.
Yesterday when I was in the Gulf, I said to the nursing home owners, there was a bad experience in Katrina. People who invite and, I might say, charge to have the aged and the infirm come into their care have a responsibility to make sure they have built the capability to evacuate their people who are entrusted to their care. You know, in an emergency, sure, the government's going to come in and do it. But that is not an excuse for nursing home owners and hospitals to abdicate their responsibility, and I think that's something we ought to take very seriously as part of our social responsibility. Now of course, in this group in particular, you're focused on the particular responsibilities you would have in the case of a pandemic like the avian flu. And this has been in the news; Secretary Leavitt, I know talked about it earlier, as he does, pretty much on a regular basis, and as I do as well from time to time. And of course, I'm not here to say that avian flu is around the corner in terms of impact on the U.S., and certainly not to say that in the near future we're going to have a pandemic of regular human-to-human transmission. But I also can't exclude the possibility, and I know that the earlier you get prepared, the better prepared you're going to be.