One of the things I heard from the leaders of FEMA was: the citizens need to be ready to help themselves. Not just that, but specifically stated: the federal government is not going to be there for you right away. Unfortunately, I only heard this for about a week before it was abandoned.
You can spend all you want on CERTs, exercises, equipment, etc, etc.
You can spend fractions of that money on an information campaign and have the citizenry help themselves.
If you tell the people ahead of time, "be prepared to take care of yourself for..." then the chance of failure is lessened. Hurricane Katrina is a good example. The perception is that no one was there fast enough to help. Yet, devestating floods in Oregon/Washinton in 2008 that were just as bad were handled just fine with minimal on-the-ground FEMA operations. Why? Because there is a fundamental difference in "be prepared to help yourself".
If the citizens aren't prepared, then the government will always fail. You'll always be too late in other people's eyes. You'll always be doing too little for someone.