On September 18th, President Bush delivered an address to the nation that was packed with comments that are very familiar to business continuity professionals, but are rarely presented to the general population by a head of state.
Here are just a few quotes from the address that stress the importance of planning:
“Our cities must have clear and up-to-date plans for responding to natural disasters, disease outbreaks or terrorist attack.”
“In a time of terror threats and weapons of mass destruction, the danger to our citizens reaches much wider than a fault line or a flood plain. I consider detailed emergency planning to be a national security priority. Therefore, I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to undertake an immediate review, in cooperation with local counterparts of emergency plans in every major city in America.”
“Yet the system at every level of government, was not well coordinated and was overwhelmed in the first few days. This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina.”
“We are going to review every action and make necessary changes so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature, or act of evil men that could threaten our people.”
And the President was clear regarding executive accountability and readiness:
“Four years after the frightening experience of September 11th, Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency. When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I as president am responsible for the problem, and for the solution.”
In the case of Hurricane Katrina, the public’s reaction regarding the government’s response was very negative, and most likely accurate. Whether in government or in business, unless there is an incentive to plan, or a consequence for failing to plan, no one will act. On September 15th, President Bush issued a clear mandate. Will this mandate, or perhaps the House Government Reform Committee’s public hearings, serve as the driver to plan? Will Hurricane Katrina and the President’s comments push government AND business leaders to plan? Will this experience stay in our country’s collective consciousness long enough to plan effectively? These are the challenges.