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National Preparedness Month (NPM) and the Importance of Paradigm Shifts for Today’s Natural Disaster Responsiveness

The Globe and Humanity are at a crossroads. A new constant is challenging the nature of disasters, which prompts the need for rethinking our responsiveness. The emergency responses of yesterday are not aligned to the challenges of today. How do we prepare to protect ourselves?

I am an international graduate studying in the United States, originally from Romania and I have traveled the world since childhood. I have seen a lot of changes, positives and negatives. Most worryingly, I have noticed the dramatic climate changes in regions. I have seen the catastrophic floods in Germany and Belgium, which resulted in 230 deaths, and the fiery destruction left by in areas like California, Oregon, Turkey and Greece. Now we have witnessed the incredible force of hurricane Ida, battering the Louisiana coast with strong gusts and rain, extending to the far reaches of the north-eastern coast. Even my native country has been experiencing drastic weather changes. We have had cyclonic events over the Black Sea coast, resulting in the formation of violent storms with hail the size of golf balls and devastating tornadoes. Massive floods then followed whilst other regions remained severely dry. When I think about these, I always had in mind these were iconic to the U.S. midwestern region. Now we are seeing them in Central and Eastern Europe. This is extremely troubling, because we haven’t seen the worst of them yet. The U.N.’s most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stated we are on course to meet more and more extreme phenomenons in our immediate future. We must therefore act.

We have come to constantly question our life choices and societal preferences as volatility has become the new norm in today’s trends. With shifting demographics, younger generations are demanding positive impacts and a seat at higher decision-making tables. Volatility in our planet’s ecosystems spurs uncertainty, therefore creating insecurities for humankind, to say the least. And like any other fear of the unknown, we tend to put more pressure on the half-empty side of the glass. However with every other crisis humanity has encountered throughout the ages, comes new opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic for instance is a perfect example showcasing humanity’s resolve to push our knowledge to the limit, beyond the barrier of the unknown. A sense of courage and determination, motivated by the need for self-preservation has always been part of humankind’s natural sense for survivelness. As such, humanity, albeit following painful efforts to conserve its rights to exist, has constantly managed to overcome these challenges, ending up with the half-full side of the glass. We know that with new crises, new mindsets must be tailored. The climate change we are currently experiencing is humanity’s next major trial. With this, a new sense of collaboration across borders needs to be emphasized.

Indeed, we are witnessing a paramount shift in international and domestic interactions. At the global level, multinational corporations and international institutions are required to change their outdated business models to meet today’s standards. Recent studies have shown that the economic and social models we were taught and used to apply may not be so relevant anymore. Businesses and entities now believe collaborating on different fronts, cross-laterality, and not through a typical silo, renders more positive-sum outputs, and therefore not only better performance and profitability, but chiefly greater sustainability and safety. The latter has become the new status quo, and so the tendency implies a more cohesive, transparent ecosystem in the way public and private sectors coexist. The value of the stakeholder is surpassing that of the shareholder. And the 4th Industrial Revolution provides us with the tools in order to combat these natural disasters. We are now using innovative technology such as drones to survey over land without affecting the ecosystem or advanced live-feed satellite imagery to monitor the development of powerful storms across the oceans. 

Collaborating implies talking with a sense of open-mindedness to any proposals for tackling these challenges. September 2021 is National Preparedness Month (NPM), making this a perfect opportunity to engage in disaster resilience conversations. We know isolated communities and societies from the developing world are the most affected by climate disasters. Every year is a struggle for their survival. Nevertheless they have been exceptionally tenacious in adapting to their local needs and worries. Societies as a whole, have a lot to learn from them, all being different in their manner of response and resilience. Community resilience is a subject increasingly researched and analysed. 

Every region suggests different responsiveness, hence the complexities put upon notions such as disaster management or risk management. For instance, risk management in American culture might be traditionally linked back to reducing costs within the financial operations for doing business, whereas risk management could take on a very different approach in developing nations. These would be more sensible to ensuring long-term societal survival and of businesses rather than worrying about strategic investments. These types of business-thinking styles are also reflected in responsiveness with regards to disaster management.  

Business models integrated with paradigms about safety, sustainability or governance give ways for us to limit damage, save valuable and scarce resources but most importantly, to reduce life-threatening situations. As the NPM references, this year’s theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”We have learned that disasters can occur at any time in our lives, prompting us to respond in efficient ways and help mitigate their spread as much as possible.

GSBN is not shying away from being at the center of shifting ways of collaborating and interacting across sectors. Our CEO, Dan LeClair, underlines the vitality of new methods for countering calamities in his article about Strengthening Disaster Resilience: The 2021 HUMLOG Challenge

GBSN is preparing for this year’s one-of-its-kind GBSN Beyond virtual conference. The HUMLOG Challenge, hosted as part of the GBSN Beyond experience will feature topics that are being debated today concerning cataclysmic events in communities in seasonal cycles as much as ad hoc events.

Key questions such as “what is our carbon footprint?”, “how do we manage time?” and “what are our keystone habits?” are covered. Thanks to 4IR tools allowing us to virtually coordinate around the world, the challenge invites individuals from across all regions to pool in their expertise and creativity for finding solutions in combating disasters. Last year’s HUMLOG Challenge was rich with fantastic mindsets, altogether enveloped around 420 students, with 113 teams from 38 schools, in 21 countries. This year, we expect these numbers to grow and therefore expand unique ideas specifically designed for each relative region in need of effective resilience. 

The participating teams will have to identify a local problem with regards to disasters, and submit a concept brief with their solutionsto the jury. Catastrophes such as droughts, storms, earthquakes, fires, and floods will be highlighted, all different depending on the targeted regions. Not only will the winning team receive a reward of $5,000 for their contribution, but all top five teams will earn a one-on-one mentoring session with the judges. Even more, participants will have the opportunity to win a certificate of international recognition.

GBSN’s HUMLOG Challenge is but one of the many examples we are witnessing in societies all over the world; examples that wish to show us the better half-full side of the glass in disaster responsiveness. We must entrust our commitments to fighting global climate change the same way many of our ancestors did in their own time when faced with such disasters. We must acknowledge the times of the past because we need to understand the significance of new models for the future. Looking in both directions allows us to highlight the importance of applying sustainable change in our Present. 

With this, I say to you, think before acting and I am wishing you a most fruitful life as we reflect upon the NPM of September 2021.