Meir Elran of Tel Aviv University speaks to IDCE2012 audience on the importance of societal resilience as a response to terrorism
Israel is not prepared for its next natural disaster “even though we know that it will happen sometime in the future,” Meir Elran, director of the Homeland Security Program at the Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies, told his audience of emergency management professionals at the January 18 morning session of the International Disaster Conference & Exposition, currently underway at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. “Our negligence is due to the man-made hazard of protracted terrorism.”
Israel’s preoccupation with planning for the disasters associated with terrorism results from a “long and frustrating cycle of violence,” including three large scale terrorist attacks over the past decade. “Israel finds itself in a constant state of alert for the next stage in this cycle.”
Most resources are dedicated to offensive and defensive military capabilities, Elran pointed out. But a key lesson learned from Israel’s struggle to protect its people is that no matter how much is invested, “we will never achieve total prevention.”
Elran suggests that the “most critical component (in responding to a disaster) is societal resilience.” In Israel more than 50 communities are engaged in programs to enhance societal resilience and studies indicate that such programs can enhance response by 50 percent. The findings are valid, he offered, for other countries and for natural as well as man-made disasters.
Elran recommends government agencies looking to the future of disaster planning change their thinking in three key ways:
- Spend cautiously and purposefully on resources designed for “reasonable protection,” understanding there is no “total prevention.” Focus more on how to bounce back the quickest way possible from a disaster.
- Understand and appreciate societal resilience. Spend more assets on supporting community resilience programs.
- Share your knowledge and learn from each other’s experience.