Progress for tomorrow: Preparing for the next disaster
ATKINSON: I think we hear from all the real-world cases, including terrorist attacks in New York and floods in North Carolina and hurricanes in the Southeast and earthquakes even that for the first 24 to 72 hours, in the best-case scenario, you're on your own, whether you're an individual, whether you're a community, whether you're a state. And that doesn't mean people don't want to help, but it takes a long time to connect the dots on where people have moved to, even if they shelter in place, where are they, where do you find them, what are their needs - communications lines goes down. The things we have heard and consistently today again, in those areas where I think government can help, the individual needs to prepare to take care of themselves including first aid courses and those things that are just common sense, not unlike civil preparedness in the '50s and '60s if you think about that. Very different perceived threat, but still the nation sort of ramped up about being prepared at the time, including shelters construction of shelters.
Today, I would say that the things where government can help that we clearly recognize you've heard it time and time again today on communication systems that are hardened, communication systems that are not dependent on towers that can come down in storms, SAT phones - satellite phone communications, those things that are universal that are not necessary military in nature that you have to learn to use, real high-tech the technology to communicate. But something that you can put in the hands of the house supervisor nurse that can communicate with public health, where other folks who have already got a busy life, but may have to all of a sudden be in the position at 3:00 in the morning to be the first officer to coordinate a hospital in this country before other personnel fall in to help, or the person that has to communicate with the police department or the fire department, groups that you usually don't communicate with in a normal situation. In natural disasters, we know that often comes too late. You're not even sure who to ask for if you were to call for help. But certainly in a pandemic when we want to discourage people to move around, I would think, communications from afar is something that could be very important because person-to-person contact is something you're going to want to avoid.
HEALY: So you're suggesting maybe having a list of phone numbers?
ATKINSON: A list and the technology that doesn't fail.
HEALY: But I'm talking about the individual access.
ATKINSON: Right, oh absolutely.
HEALY: I mean, you can have the tower that's up but if you don't know what phone number to call.
ATKINSON: Our emergency departments and our health and hospital systems in this nation spend a large part of their day dealing with people who have not used self-responsibility that put them in the place to be in that emergency department to begin with, including failure to put helmets on their kids on their bikes and those things that common sense should drive you to understand that it's an individual disaster waiting to happen when you ignore common sense when it comes to safety. And I think that's the same scenario here. Not everyone will think about that, nor can everyone afford to think about that. They may not have the resources to have that. But those people who can, I think we heard it said earlier, have an obligation to sort of take care of themselves because we need to turn the resources of our community to those people who are without, including those persons who perhaps have a handicap or some other thing that prevents them from being able to get out in a situation like this and fend for themselves. That's where communities ought to fall in to provide help.