Preben Bonnén

Political Adviser & Analyst
Forum for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning & NORDIC dialogue, Denmark

“I’ve been a political adviser and analyst in civil protection and emergency planning for the last 20 years. My role is to advise politicians and give them insight and knowledge. In other words, with our work, we contribute to politicians making their decisions on a good and informed basis, so that the safety and security of the public are handled in the best possible way.

Practically, this means we prepare reports, memoranda, and paper for thoughts, as well as visit other countries’ authorities to gain insight, knowledge and inspiration. This is then shared: in meetings with politicians, seminars, conferences and events, such as the national 112 Day, which we were in charge of until 2016. Considering that the population often takes for granted that help just comes when you need the police, fire or ambulance service, it’s important that the public gets to know society’s preparedness in general, as well as the individual authorities. 112 Day is a great opportunity for the public to better understand their community’s preparedness.

Working in the emergency field is one of the most relevant and interesting jobs you can have. Being able to contribute to the decision-making processes and to see that things that you have proposed become reality is the most rewarding thing about my work. My motivation to make a difference comes from the people who work in the police, fire and ambulance services. Talking to them, listening to them, and joining them on exercises is in itself a motivational factor.

I’m not a police officer, firefighter or paramedic, but as an advisor and analyst, my role is no less important. Or so my friends in civil protection and emergency planning tell me! I help to formulate the framework and conditions for the individual police officer, firefighter and paramedic. I help to get the best possible working conditions so that when an accident has happened or a disaster becomes a reality, they can save lives.

The most difficult part of my role is that things take time. Negotiations and meetings take time, travel takes time, and political work takes a very long time. My work is not an ordinary, everyday job where you know when you’ll be working. In fact, you never have that power. The phone can ring because you are needed, you can be called to a meeting at short notice and there is a lot of written work that you usually have to do in the evenings. It can be hard, but the idea that what you work with helps others means that you find the time and effort for it.

For me, there’s no doubt that within the area of civil protection and emergency planning we will see a growing volume of work. Climate change and cyberattacks will give authorities far greater and different challenges than we have witnessed so far. It will require new and better education, more activities to practice and more specialisation. Finally, we must not wait for the new reality to start these new tasks. No, we must pre-empt it. We must prepare for the new reality and the new challenges, not respond to them once they are a reality. It is fine to mitigate the consequences of an incident, but it is better to prevent and be prepared. In other words, we must do more and better.”

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