Emergency Management Overview

Lecture Notes: Emergency Management Overview
 
Emergency management (aka disaster management) is a discipline that deals with risk and disaster. Emergency preparedness is that part of emergency management which attempts to minimize the loss of life and property by . For several decades, the U.S. has had a national emergency management system consisting of thousands of organizations, large and small, that are engaged in disaster-related activities. This network, or system, has always been multijurisdictional and multiorganizational, consisting of first responders who work for state or local government in public health and safety professions like policing and firefighting. When a disaster exceeds the capabilities of these first responders, additional resources are brought to bear from adjacent jurisdictions, nearby regions, other states, private entities, and the federal government. Those additional resources typically include the following:
 
general-purpose relief agencies — the , the Salvation Army, and others
nonprofit voluntary organizations — faith-based groups, etc.
ad hoc groups — amateur radio groups, local food banks, emergency food and shelter providers, etc.
volunteers — search and rescue, technicians, engineers, businesses, medical and skilled persons
 
This is an incomplete list, as it would be near-impossible to list all the groups and individuals who come out to support their local community in time of disaster. The point is, that a complex network exists, albeit one with fragmented authority that is hard to coordinate. Indeed, how does anyone coordinate multiorganizational, multisector, and intergovernmental operations? That, however, is the job of emergency management, and although it would be nice to think that everything is well-organized through some command-and-control system, the reality is that most operations are loosely structured, consensually oriented, and dependent on trust and commitment.
 
Disaster management requires putting many organized groups, unorganized groups, skilled people, and unskilled people to work efficiently. Some groups may be at the scene for proprietary reasons, e.g., . Other groups may have illegitimate reasons for being there; e.g. looting or price gouging. Funeral homes may have to be mobilized to take in dead bodies. Businesses that will have to stay open. A lot of unskilled people might be put to work at . It all has to be organized somehow.
 
Waugh (1993) has outlined the central dilemma as a choice between command versus coordination, and coordination (from the bottom-up) has always been the more elegant and preferred solution for state and local emergency managers. Homeland security, by contrast, is a command-and-control system (from the top-down). Homeland security imposes certain requirements (e.g., secrecy, security clearances, formal partnerships, formal memoranda of understanding) that complicate, if not impede, the flexibility of an informal system which works on the basis of informal agreements, trust, cooperation, and sharing. In order to evolve, the bottom-up coordination approach of emergency management must find a way to co-exist and grow along with the top-down command approach of homeland security.
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