The cabinet secretary for West Virginia's Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety told a Disaster Summit gathering Tuesday that the events following the Boston Marathon bombing show what can be accomplished when everybody works together.
Joe Thornton, who was the keynote speaker at the event held on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus, said everything fell into place because agencies tore down their boundaries.
"The territorialism thing has always bothered me about government," Thornton said. "Only by working together can we build success. We need each other."
Thornton said that spirit of cooperation needs to exist from the highest level of government to the grassroots efforts of local volunteers.
"We all have things we can contribute to help our state," he said. "None of us has the ability to perform every needed function. For some of us, all we have to offer is encouragement and a listening ear."
Thornton also stressed the need not only to be prepared, but to act prepared for events he deemed "unthinkable." He said the ability to prevent disasters, whether they be manmade, terroristic or natural, often lies within the community.
"Prevention happens in our individual neighborhoods," he said. "The success to mitigate or prevent these bad incidents lies within our individual communities. You can report suspicious activities, prepare an emergency kit. We need to always be ready. You just can't think about preparedness. You have to act on it."
He said with shrinking governmental resources, it makes it more imperative for agencies to work together.
"I think it's only going to get worse," Thornton said. "That should be priority No. 1 on why we should work together, see what relationships need to exist that don't and which ones need to get better. We have to focus less on why it can't be done and more on how we can make it happen."