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How to Influence Elected Officials

Call them out in public!

Every emergency manager has the challenge of trying to get elected officials to pay attention to disasters, disaster preparedness and disaster resilience. Disasters don’t happen every day, others clamor for their attention and they have bunches of other priorities to address.

School building seismic safety here in Washington state has been an ongoing issue for many years with little to no action by the Legislature. They have thrown pennies at the issue while both Oregon and British Columbia are spending hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars to protect children and staff when they are at school.

One option available to us is the power of the pen in the form of writing opinion pieces for newspapers (those that still exist). See this current op-ed: “Lawmakers’ neglect of school seismic safety risks children’s lives.”

Will this one printed article change the world? No, but it is a very public “calling out” for more actions and not more studies to be done. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if no one is laying seismic safety bricks, it will never be built.

Yes, I know that if you are actively serving a government agency you can’t go out and write something like the above. But, you could recruit someone else to write about it. You also, as a citizen, can contact your individual legislators and tell them your opinion on any topic. We have expertise — let’s share it with those who have the power of the purse and are charged with public safety.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.