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Thought Leader Uncategorized Philanthropy

Preparing for the Next Crisis

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By Milton J. Little, Jr.

By Milton J. Little, Jr., President of United Way of Greater Atlanta

We are in the middle of the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. You cannot turn on the TV or surf the Internet without hearing about the disease. In the last 30 days, more than 21 million tweets mentioned Ebola. That’s about 8 tweets per second!

President Obama has named an Ebola czar and Governor Deal has organized an Ebola Response Team. All eyes are on Greater Atlanta as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes the lead on disseminating information and doctors at Emory University Hospital treat patients infected with the virus.

Health officials say we are at minimal risk. As of October 25, only four people in the U.S. had been diagnosed with Ebola. Our healthcare here is the best in the world, and with the exception of one person, those patients have been cured. Still, people are afraid. After all, the virus has already taken more than 4,500 lives. I am not trying to minimize the loss of life or the global threat. Both are significant. But what can we – nonprofit, business, faith and community leaders – do to prepare Greater Atlanta for the next crisis – whether it’s health-related, a natural disaster, terrorism or something else?

We’ve been here before. Remember SARS? Swine flu? This year’s Snowmageddon. The tornado a few years back? In each case, there was panic and fear because we were caught off guard and there was no central location or organization for citizens to connect with for information.

Now is the time to be proactive and come up with a plan to make sure everyone in our community knows where to go for credible information and ensure schools, businesses, churches and other groups know how to distribute that information to the people they serve.

I know you may be thinking, “Milton, that’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and news media are for.” You’re right. But those groups are only two pieces of the puzzle. We have people in our neighborhoods who may not have access to the CDC’s website for information, but may call United Way’s 2-1-1 contact center. Others may not believe what they hear on the news, but trust and listen to people they interact with regularly like their faith and community leaders.

Let’s not wait until the next big crisis to have this conversation. Let’s start right now. Join in by responding to the poll below.

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