Since there are no currently active contests, we have switched Climate CoLab to read-only mode.
Learn more at
Skip navigation
Share via:


In disasters like Katrina, federal help may be slow in coming. But what if everyone was already prepared?



After Hurricane Katrina, it took FEMA five days to get water to the Superdome.

Two days after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, six million United States customers were still without electrical power.

And everyone knows the story of the Atlanta gridlock from an itty-bit of snow.

With global warming, disasters are getting worse, and their effects are being more deeply felt.  The federal government is sometimes slow in responding, especially when the disaster is of great magnitude.  People are unprepared, not so much because they want to be unprepared, but because they do not have enough money, time, or motivation to prepare. 

But what if there was a federal program that allowed even the poorest of Americans to prepare for disaster?  It could give out backpacks full of emergency food and water, to be kept in the home or used during an evacuation.  Food could also be stored in evacuation centers, like schools, if it was something that didn't take up a lot of space, like rice or beans.  Granted, some people would use the food up prior to any disaster, when finances got tight.  But I think a majority of people would be grateful that disaster preparation was one less thing they needed to worry about.  Additional steps, outlined below, could also be implemented.

Of course, this would not eliminate the need for a federal response, but it would certainly give the government a little bit of time to breathe, since they would know that most people would have at least some supplies.

Category of the action

Mitigation - What U.S. Federal Agencies can do to mitigate climate change

What actions do you propose?

Create a federally funded program that helps everyday citizens prepare for an emergency.  Provide them with backpacks filled with food and water, stock emergency centers like schools with emergency food and water, and perhaps even provide a small emergency kit for the car.  Guidelines should also be given out with instructions for gathering copies of important documents, and medications, in case of an evacuation.  Information on evacuation routes (maps, etc.) can also be given out, to be kept with the emergency backpacks, documents, and meds, for quick evacuation in the car.

Who will take these actions?

The federal government, though it could start at the state level, especially in coastal states.

Where will these actions be taken?

See above.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

None.  This will merely deal with the effects of global warming, not the cause.

What are other key benefits?

Perhaps it will change the mindset of so-called "preppers", from "I'm preparing, and I'll shoot you if you try and steal from me," to "How do we get everyone to prepare, so I don't have to shoot you?" 

What are the proposal’s costs?

Major.  However, perhaps people would be willing to pay for a slight tax increase, especially if there was a ballot question about the program, and enough people voted for it. 

Also, it would probably reduce the costs of a disaster response significantly, if people were sheltering in place and not fleeing in droves (and even then, they would have the backpacks).  If enough people were fleeing, as with Katrina, it would reduce the time of evacutaion, as well as the costs associated (injuries, etc) since people would have everything already prepared and ready to go.

Time line

This would probably take 1-2 years to be implemented.

Related proposals