Disaster Preparation Meets Earth Hour

03/28/2011 03:15 pm 15:15:42 | Updated May 28, 2011

What if the government did Earth Hour and turned off all the lights for an hour? Millions of people all around the world made the commitment and turned off their lights at 8:30 on March 26. It's really an astonishing fact something that would have been much harder to do in the past, without the networked world we now live in. So why doesn't government engage in a gesture that not only helps the environment, but also mobilize protection from future disasters.

We all remember the nuclear blast drills that we used to do in schools. Duck and cover. Better safe than sorry after all. In a world where we're so reliant on electricity, this one of the new points of attack that we need to be prepared for. Stories fill the airwaves about hackers attacking the power grid. People are concerned. So where's the action? Why not run a 1-hour drill to help citizens get ready and know how to respond in case some failure happens?

Already, 85 million people faced this reality in the Northeast blackout of 2003 due to a power surge. There was an incredible response given the circumstances. But there was little action to follow up.

A 1 hour power outage would be fantastic for the environment as well. Aligning environment and disaster response brings together issues that citizens are increasingly concerned about. Right now, given the disaster in Japan, it's also a teachable moment. Countries everywhere are trying to learn from what happened in Japan. Why not step up and lead the way?

Relying on engagement and ideas from citizens by hosting drills is one way. Not only running a drill, as has been done in the past, but then crowdsourcing ideas and stories after the drill is over. The government has a lot to learn from how citizens process the situation. And from itself, as it sees the potential fail points that need to be fixed in the future.

Naysayers will think that it's too much of a burden to ask of people and of government. It might negatively impact businesses and the economy. But I disagree. Israel plans for a shutdown of many vital services every Friday. And learning from those lessons are a way to make sure to enact this drill without putting lives or economics at risk.

I believe that citizens will appreciate the thoughtfulness of actions such as these, beyond the immediate political greenwashing that we have instead come to expect from political leadership. Everyone stands to benefit. Not just people, but the environment too.