"Whether you're preparing to protect critical infrastructure from willful attacks or earthquakes, some of that is the same type of work," said Jay Alan, director of communications for the California Emergency Management Agency.
But never-ending budget woes do strain the system, noted Ryan J. Alsop of Los Angeles County's chief executive office. Disasters are always a priority, he said, but if they happen, there is less and less left over for anything else.
"We hope we don't have one right now," he said facetiously. "It's not a good time."
The day the quake struck Haiti, Ken Kondo got a call from an L.A. group that wanted someone to talk about earthquake preparation. A program manager at the county's office of emergency management, he showed up and took a survey. Of the 200 in the audience, how many had a disaster kit? Three hands rose.
"Southern Californians are used to earthquakes and so sometimes you get a little complacent with it," he said. "The goal is to prevent disasters from becoming catastrophes."
Each Sunday, The Week examines implications of major stories. It is archived at latimes.com/theweek.