Machiavelli, in The Prince (which is mistakenly maligned as an "evil work" -- it's not entirely to my liking or my ethics, but there's a lot of wisdom there) talks about fortune as being akin to a raging river -- we cannot direct the flow entirely. However, during times of calmness, we can prepare for the rage by building dams, embankments, levees, and taking necessary precautions to help weather fortune's vagaries.
Good advice that. Rudi Guiliani's (No political endorsement implied) book on Leadership espouses a similar philosophy. Prior to 9/11, he had run his staff through innumerable exercises on disaster response and readiness.
Thus, I'm glad to say that today, I saw my city and county tax dollars well at work. The Health Departments of Hamilton County and Cincinnati hosted a forum to help faith leaders think through what might be asked of churches in the event of an influenza pandemic. The officials laid out some pretty serious implications, drawing on the analogy of the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed over half a million americans. But this wasn't a "sky is falling" exercise -- this was an opportunity for us to think proactively about building dams and levees (to pick up Machiavelli's analogy) and prepare for what could happen.
See the CDC's website on pandemic flu preparation for more information on possible social disruption and ways to be prepared. The CDC also has a general page for emergency preparedness -- do you keep an emergency preparedness kit in your house (a small amount of cash, copies of important documents in watertight containers, asprin, batteries, water purification tablets, a blanket, some basic nonperishable food items, etc). We don't have one at present (my old scoutmaster would be ashamed), but you can be sure I'll be putting one together. See the red cross page on recommendations for what should go in your kit.
Lots to think about on this one. It's a matter of good stewardship. I'd be interested to know your thoughts on this one.