Our Failure of Initiative

A grassroots response is essential to fight and recover from COVID-19, especially as Omicron variant spreads

LENOIR, N.C. – On March 30, 2020 – less than three weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), I wrote this article: “Coronavirus Requires Robust Local Response.” When I wrote that, 2,600 Americans had died from the disease.

As I write this, we are on day 648 and more than 800,000 Americans are dead. Additionally, the Omicron variant, while still very much a mystery, is clear cause for concern.

That is our failure of initiative. It is because far too many people just have misplaced priorities. Consequently, I refer you back to the referenced article, as it will be a primer for a series titled: “A Grassroots Guide to Community Preparedness and Disaster Management.”

So, what qualifies me to offer such a Guide?

In January 2009, I earned a post-graduate Certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina. I immediately put it to work where I was serving as the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Safety Officer in a 350-bed hospital in North Carolina. Later, I worked in a small but extremely risky hospital in West Virginia because our service area included 2,000 people incarcerated in state and federal facilities.

In short, in addition to my work decades ago as a paramedic in Charlotte, where I regularly triaged mass casualty incidents, my training and experience in community preparedness has never been more relevant. Indeed, my first training in emergency preparedness was 48 years-ago when I became an EMT and later an EMT instructor.

My more recent work included serving as Incident Commander and/or Safety Officer in numerous real-world emergency events; organizing community partners to hold full scale community exercises; leading the hospital response to H1N1 outbreak, including the organization of a news conference to address misconceptions; it was highlighted in the Raleigh News & Observer as a model of crisis communications.

I lead and trained HAZMAT teams; chaired the Safety Committees; developed and organized the Incident Command/Emergency Operations Centers; conducted facility risk assessments, wrote the Hazard Vulnerability Analyses, Emergency Operations Plans, Pandemic Response & Recovery Manuals, and Emergency Codes & Procedures Manuals; designed and developed the hospital disaster websites (demonstrated as a “Best Practice” at the Triad Regional Advisory Committee, Winston-Salem, N.C.); was a member of several Local Emergency Preparedness Committee (LEPC); and, ensured implementation and performed other administrative responsibilities.

The guide/series will be immediately practical, as the guide will be intended to respond to COVID-19 in general and the Omicron variant in particular. Until the first installment is published within the next few days, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the link above. It’s a valuable lesson in our failure of initiative.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2021. “A Grassroots Guide to Community Preparedness and Disaster Management” is © Michael M. Barrick, 2021. Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash


  1. We have an effective and PROVEN means to end the current Covid crisis: VACCINATION! As we experience yet another ‘surge’ at the end of 2021, it is so painfully clear that more than 9 out of 10 of these new infections are among the UNvaccinated. If you are a patriot, if you love your family, if you are dedicated to making your neighborhood and community a better place to live and work, then show it by getting vaccinated!!

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