Devereaux Covid Q1

Published by Paola Avendano on

As a former local government administrator, I will leave the appropriateness of the federal policy response to others and comment instead about the state of emergency preparedness in the country. In instances of emergencies or disasters, be they naturally occurring, like a floods, fires or hurricanes, or man-made, like a mass-shootings, the response and recovery system in this country is based on a simple approach – locally executed, state managed, and federally supported.

When a local emergency occurs, the first response is the responsibility of the local jurisdiction – in most instances, a city. If the city does not have the resources to adequately handle the situation, it requests assistance from the county, and at each level if there are insufficient resources it progresses up the chain, county to state, and state to federal. The ability to respond, at each level, is largely dependent on current and past levels of funding for preparedness, response and recovery. A decision made by elected leaders within the context of all of the other needs and obligations requiring funding. Therefore, resources from the next level, become situational and uneven, even in like instances.

A world-wide health crisis, which effects our entire country, though unevenly and with different levels of intensity at different times, due to its scope, turns portions of the system on its head calling for a top down, unified response by the federal government. Unfortunately it has exposed gaps in planning and underfunding for preparedness by both current and past administrations, as well as a level of overlapping regulation by, lack of coordination between, and clarity of responsibility among, multiple agencies, which is inhibiting the ability to rapidly and effectively respond.

Once we have weathered this crisis, it is my hope that our current and future federal leadership will use it as an opportunity to improve the entire system and the country’s ability to respond to all types of emergencies and crises.