The Politics of Disaster: Prevention Doesn’t Pay?

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Politicians get more credit for disaster response than they do for disaster prevention, according to a recent  Mother Jones report.

The piece quotes Stanford professor Neil Malhotra as saying, “The government might under-invest in preparedness measures and infrastructure development in exchange for paying for disaster relief, since there are no electoral rewards for prevention. Since 1988, the amount of money the U.S. spends on disaster relief has increased 13 times while the amount spending on disaster preparedness has been flat.”

Malhotra co-authored a 2009 study with Loyola Marymount professor Andrew Healy on the politics of natural disasters. That study “estimated that $1 in preparedness spending is worth $15 in relief payments in preventing future disasters,” according to Malhotra.

So, if politicians are rewarded for spending big on disaster clean-up, it’s no wonder preparedness can be a tough sell. Do you feel the same is true in your organizations? Are you lauded when you respond to a crisis and have to enact plans but largely ignored when trying to sell mitigation measures? Which BCP initiatives were the toughest sells and for which were you given a blank check?

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