Commentary: Will we be ready for the next disaster? –

Security Debrief and CNN contributor George Foresman, during an interview on CNN, discusses the state of emergency preparedness — what worked, and what still needs to be done. Below is an excerpt of the full interview:

By all accounts, steps taken since Hurricane Katrina have markedly improved the way that state and local agencies along the Gulf readied themselves in advance of Gustav. Nowhere is it more apparent than in Louisiana. Better plans, rehearsed and tested procedures and clear leadership have allowed the orderly movement of nearly 2 million people out of harm’s way.

Federal agencies that bore the brunt of criticism after Katrina have been busy ensuring the right types of support to their local and state counterparts. Citizens for the most part have both heeded and embraced guidance about the steps they needed to take to be safer and more secure — emboldened by memories from three years ago but also better informed and better educated.

Yet the simple fact remains that this test is far from over.

Over the next 48 hours, it will become apparent to individuals and a nation whether this was, in fact, “the big one.” Government officials and news organizations will spring into action as they seek to gauge the scope and severity of Gustav. Relief efforts will begin. Problems will emerge. Heroic stories will surface.

Given the efforts of the past 96 hours, one might be cautiously optimistic that the response to Hurricane Gustav will turn out to be a good-news story.

The trends of the past couple of years show that when well-prepared, community and state government organizations, businesses and citizens confront everything from wildfires to tornadoes to floods and are able to harness federal help in the right way and at the right time so the devastating impacts of a crisis can be lessened.