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Regional Approaches Superior to Going It Alone

Let the D.C. example be a lesson to you — how not to do it.

I've written this here before. People ask me, what do you do? I have two answers. Usually I say, "I'm in the disaster business" since that seems to get their attention. Then I follow up with, "I spend my days trying to get people and organizations to work with one another." Sounds simple, but it isn't.

The basic urge is for organizations and jurisdictions to want to do their own thing. The larger the organization, the more impulse there is to not cooperate with others — we can do this ourselves! This can be true in smaller communities, but generally they know they are co-dependent on one another, since no one organization has enough resources to go it alone.

All this came to mind with this story, D.C. Un-United: Amazon's Second HQ Pits City Vs. Its Suburbs  I suppose we could blame their lack of cooperation on the political culture of the era we are in, but their thinking and actions are very common. In a similar vein, former Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire has been working to have the Central Puget Sound counties merge their economic development efforts. Everyone is not running to jump into the collective effort. There are words that come to mind: self-reliant, selfish, jealous, vindictive, win-lose. Others?

One bright spot I can point to is the Portland Metro area where the counties that all intersect there are collectively working on a Regional Disaster Recovery Framework. Disaster recovery, perhaps even more than disaster response, is a team sport. This is the recovery marathon, and the weeks, months and years will pass by — slowly. Collective recovery is key to a faster, and hopefully, more resilient recovery.

The "other Washington" should pay attention to what the jurisdictions in Portland learned in kindergarten — how to play nice in the same sandbox.

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.