"It's what we do on a daily basis--think of bad things, and then come up with a scheme of how we'd handle it," explains Ken Jones, Lansing's Emergency Management Chief.
Preparing for a disaster is almost ironic, and certainly impossible. Jones says they recommend people be ready for 3 days of self-preservation in the case of a bad one.
He and emergency manager's know they'll never be truly ready. Instead, they shoot for flexible. Knowing their enemies is crucial. In mid-Michigan, it's most often weather events, and sometimes car crashes, train derailments, and other chemical problems.
They also keep the unthinkable in mind.
"My big fear," says Ingham County's manager Sgt. Mike Perez, "some terrorist comes and releases the biological weapon."
Thinking nationally, the emergency coordinators say we're lucky--north of tornado alley, miles from hurricane-ridden Florida and the Gulf. Still, even nestled in mid-Michigan, history shows us our luck has and will run out.
1904: It was the worst flood in mid-michigan history. The flood plain the city sits on suggests there'll be one once-in-hundred years. Many emergency responders feel we're due.
1975: The flooding happened again, though not so badly this time. Still, 3 died in this spring disaster.
There are also non-natural phenomenon to consider:
1927: The Bath Consolidated School bombing
1934: The Hotel Kerns fire
2003: The Blackout
2005: A 200 car pile-up on I-96.
Those disasters were the lessons that have shaped modern emergency procedures. "One thing thats changed in long term planning," Jones says. They have a new regional communication system, a health system plan, and perhaps most important, cooperative meetings where local officials come together to ask over and over again: Are we ready?