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Foresight and prediction: Preparing for the future of emergency management


I’ve blogged a few times about our Strategic Foresight Initiative as we promote broader, long-term thinking about the future of emergency management.  My last post talked about nine drivers that will influence this future, and mentioned we would be exploring key issues in each of these areas.  I wanted to highlight three of these areas in this blog post, and briefly mention our approach in exploring the issues by using a combination of foresight and prediction.

While the two terms seem similar, a key difference between the two is that foresight acknowledges the fact that the future is uncertain, and tries to prepare decision makers for how the future may change.  Predictions are an attempt to remove uncertainty from the future.  Emergency managers must attempt to foresee what possible futures they may face when they make decisions that will have implications for years down the road. Today, it is important for emergency managers use a combination of foresight and predictions as they think about the future.  And that’s the approach we took in exploring each of the drivers.

I wanted to share our findings on three of these drivers in this post: 

  • Technology –The adoption of smartphones, new media, and other emerging technologies will change emergency management as they are adopted by a greater number of Americans—or if a disaster makes cellular networks unavailable.
  • Government budgets - Budget projections are grim at all levels of government.  Balance sheets are still feeling the effects of the economic downturn that began in 2007, and budgets will be squeezed in the long term by health care and retirement obligations as the Baby Boomers begin to retire.  Emergency managers will need to consider how they fund their activities if government budgets continue to be constrained.   
  • The state of critical infrastructure - The average age of infrastructure in the United States has been rising, meaning that structures are becoming older and more prone to failure.  Beyond that, the very nature of infrastructure could change as America adopts new and different technologies such as alternative energy and enhanced wireless communications networks.  Emergency response could be hindered by aging infrastructure, or disruptions to communications networks, and investments in new infrastructure offer opportunities to reduce the impacts of future disasters.

Through our Strategic Foresight Initiative, we have compiled additional research information about these three drivers.  I invite you to review these papers and post any comments, thoughts, or suggestions you may have.  Our objective is to broaden the dialogue and generate feedback and new perspectives on the issues being identified.

Last Updated: 
06/18/2012 - 20:49

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