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Disaster Central
MCNY's Emergency and Disaster Management Blog

Financial Incentives

June 2, 2008

With increasing frequency, communities are turning to the tax code to affect changes in (largely undesirable) social behaviors.  Since 2002, for example, New York City has followed a policy of implementing deterrent tax rises in its ongoing efforts to end smoking in the five boroughs.  According to figures released by the New York City Mayor’s office, these deterrent tax increases have reduced smoking by some 30% – although it should be noted that there is some variance in these figures.  At the same time, the deterrent tax increases have added significant funds to the City’s treasury, with a portion of this revenue earmarked for smoking-cessation programs.

Given the success of New York City’s efforts to control social behavior through the selective implementation of the tax code, do you believe a similar model should be applied to enhancing emergency preparedness in New York City?  For businesses and other organizations, failure to implement business continuity, preparedness, response, and recovery protocols would result in the imposition of tax surcharges and increases that could then be applied to improving preparedness, response, and recovery levels in those respective firms.  In another example, those high-rise buildings that have yet to install communications systems and radio-repeaters would be assessed a sky-high (no pun intended) tax surcharge in order to force them to better protect both their tenants and our first responders and public safety personnel during response and recovery periods.  A similar plan could be applied to private homes.  After all, just as smoking represents a public health hazard, so does a lack of emergency preparedness in New York City.

How far are you willing to go to provide yourself, your family, and friends with safe working and living environments?  Do you support this initiative?  Do you believe it would improve safety and preparedness in New York City?  In terms of public health, New York City has indicated that it has no intention of “simply blowing smoke.”  Has the time come to expand this approach to achieving higher levels of emergency preparedness in New York City?  Disaster Central welcomes your thoughts on this.

Professor Longshore

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