The Forgotten Lessons of Civil Defense for the Homeland Security Era
Scholars investigating civil defense generally focus on where it fell short of protecting the nation against attack. But civil defenders trained volunteers, organized state and local associations, educated citizens about fire and flood safety, and generally engaged the public to a greater degree than do today’s homeland security programs. Contemporary homeland security has drawn criticism for developing procedures that prioritize the terrorist threat and marginalize efforts to prepare for natural hazards such as fires and floods. Homeland security policies have also been shown to lack coordination and accountability. In contrast, the decentralized federalism of the early civil defense period offers advantages over the more heriarchical and centralized approach to today’s homeland security.