The United States needs to increase funding for emergency response and preparedness, APHA’s executive director told members of Congress last Wednesday.
“Most people regard emergency preparedness as a secondary responsibility,” explained Georges Benjamin, APHA’s executive director, at a congressional hearing before the House Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Emergency, Response and Communications on Wednesday. This challenge, which highlights one of the problems of today’s state of preparedness, informed much of the discussion among preparedness experts and committee members. During his testimony, Benjamin explained how many Americans value response over preemptive measures because responses are more visible.
But emergency preparedness is essential, said John Madden, director of the National Emergency Management Association, during his testimony.
“Regardless of whether or not disaster actually strikes, the nation must prepare for every complexity of every possible event,” Madden said.
The panelists underscored the need for national cooperation between public and private sectors and federal and local governments, a collaboration that would necessitate adequate resources and staffers.
“An unsustainable funding pattern erodes system preparedness for all hazards and threats and leaves our nation at risk”, Benjamin said.
Fifty seven percent of health departments have recently enacted painful cuts that may prevent adequate response to major attacks.
“Unfortunately, federal support for preparedness is swiftly dwindling,” Benjamin said.
Crucial organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Strategic National Stockpile have incurred high losses even as the world faces increasingly more threats, such as cyber attacks, the panelists said.
Although it’s psychologically difficult to allot money toward a prevention strategy that may never be needed, the U.S will not be safe if it only appropriates funds after a disaster or attack, panelists said.
Here is a link to Benjamin’s full testimony.