Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do
On Sale: August 22, 2006
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This important book by one of our leading experts on
disaster preparedness offers a compelling narrative about
our nation’s inability to properly plan for large-scale
disasters and proposes changes that can still be made to
assure the safety of its citizens.
Five years after
9/11 and one year after Hurricane Katrina, it is painfully
clear that the government’s emergency response capacity is
plagued by incompetence and a paralyzing bureaucracy. Irwin
Redlener, who founded and directs the National Center for
Disaster Preparedness, brings his years of experience with
disasters and health care crises, national and
international, to an incisive analysis of why our health
care system, our infrastructure, and our overall approach to
disaster readiness have left the nation vulnerable,
virtually unable to respond effectively to catastrophic
events. He has had frank, and sometimes shocking,
conversations about the failure of systems during and after
disasters with a broad spectrum of people—from hospital
workers and FEMA officials to Washington policy makers and
military leaders. And he also analyzes the role of
nongovernmental organizations, such as the American Red
Cross in the aftermath of Katrina.
out how a government with a track record of over-the-top
cronyism and a stunning disregard for accountability has
spent billions on “random acts of preparedness,” with very
little to show for it—other than an ever-growing
bureaucracy. As a doctor, Redlener is especially concerned
about America’s increasingly dysfunctional and expensive
health care system, incapable of handling a large-scale
public health emergency, such as pandemic flu or widespread
bioterrorism. And he also looks at the serious problem of a
disengaged, uninformed citizenry—one of the most important
obstacles to assuring optimal readiness for any major
Redlener describes five natural and man-made
disaster scenarios as a way to imagine what we might face,
what our current systems would and would not prepare us for,
and what would constitute optimal planning—for government
and the public—in each situation. To see what could be
learned from others, he points up some of the more effective
ways countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East have
dealt with various disasters. And he concludes with a real
prescription: a nine-point proposal for how America can be
better prepared as well as an addendum of what citizens
themselves can do.
An essential book for our time,
Americans at Risk is a devastating and realistic
account of where we stand today.
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