According to the Washington Post, in an article featured “U.S. Flu Outbreak Plan Criticized” Health Officials say that the Administration’s plans for dealing with pandemic flu does not anticipate strain on hospitals, staff, and the public health systems. This is true. A serious outbreak would inundate medical centers, cause lengthy delays in emergency and routine care, and trigger shortages of beds and other supplies. The Bush administration argues that it is doing a lot to help communities as part of its three-pronged strategy for dealing with the flu threat. But the underlying problem is that too much attention has been given to the role of the federal government and too little to the role of to local communities.

In “Grassroots Disaster Response: Harnessing the Capacities of Communities” Heritage Foundation experts James Carafano, Jennifer Marshall, and Lauren Calco explain why local communities can and must play a huge role in disaster response. Why? For starters, they’re on the scene first. And they know their home turf better than the feds. As the authors note, local, grassroots organizations have “adequate situational awareness of local need and the means to deploy the right resources to the right place at the right time to do the right thing.” And as needs change, they can more readily adapt to provide the aid best suited to meet those needs. Meanwhile, they suggest, the federal government should focus its efforts on building a national response system able to deal with truly catastrophic disasters by mobilizing the nation’s resources to support state and local community responses.