Natural disasters are an increasingly common reality for hundreds of thousands of Americans, and as climate change and urbanization amplify the frequency and intensity of these events, the response by communities, governments and private citizens is more important than ever before, according to Brian Gerber, co-director of Arizona State University's Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security. But academics, government agencies and volunteers are rising to the challenge — developing critical disaster responses, participating in full-scale exercises and harboring cross-sector partnerships for the inevitable day a disaster strikes. Those partners came together Thursday at a Sustainability Series event titled "How Will Arizona Respond to a Major Regional Disaster?" The event was presented by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation and the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center. Ramona Denby-Brinson, associate dean of research at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, spoke about how ASU's emergency management center is already making waves in the disaster response field, even though it was recently created. The meeting, which featured a slate of speakers and a panel of experts in different facets of disaster response, came after the participation of the center and other state and community partners in a statewide “National Mass Care Exercise,” aimed at developing a better understanding of the role and capabilities of voluntary, private and governmental organizations in responding to a regional disaster in Arizona. Robert Rowley, director of the Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management and an ASU alumnus, spoke from the audience, pointing out that in the event of a mass care event, city and county officials don’t have reserve employees on hand to deal with such an influx. “The biggest thing that we were thinking about during this process was, with the sheer number of people coming in, what realistically would we as local governments … be able to handle ourselves? And the answer is … not much,” Rowley said. “City and county governments operate with staff and materials sufficient to do their daily jobs. And we don’t maintain a reserve force of people that we can activate during a disaster to bring in and handle all this extra activity.” The only government response that could do such a thing, Rowley said, is the military. But, “it’s about three days before federal resources, even the military, can be mobilized and in your area and starting to perform an operation. “So what we have started looking at is what can we do for a period of three days, to take care of this massive influx of people.” Read the full story on ASU Now.