Emergency management also referred to as disaster management is the act of being prepared to face risks associated with certain natural or human disasters even before they happen. Such disasters may include fire, floods, disease breakouts, terrorist attacks among others (Haddow & Bullock, 2004). Preparedness for disaster response includes emergency evacuation processes, application of quarantine to the affected areas, fire extinguishing procedures in case of fire breakouts, mass decontamination and so forth. In simple terms, emergency management helps individuals, groups and the communities to learn how they can manage hazards and disasters in future in order to avoid or reduce their impacts on people and property (Wisner, Blaikie, Cannon & Davis, 2004).
The process of emergency management mainly focuses on four major phases. This includes mitigation of risks, preparedness, developing the necessary response tactics and finally, the recovery phase (FEMA, 2006). For emergency management to be effective, there is need for proper integration of viable emergency plans both at the governmental and nongovernmental levels of the society. This requires a qualified coordinator also known as the emergency manager. A coordinator is expected to focus keenly on both community and governmental preparedness as well as the ability of private organizations to handle future disasters.
Based on the above mentioned phases of emergency management, an emergency manager has many duties in coordinating all the four phases. In the risk mitigation phase, the coordinator invents ways in which to identify potential sources of disaster and the extent of risks associated with them. This involves the use of both structural and non-structural methods to identify things like the topography, flood levees, history of hazard occurrences, insurance and so forth (NFPA, 2007).
In preparedness, a coordinator helps to develop plans for action which include enhancing proper communication, multi-agency coordination, development of public warning methods together with evacuation practices, ensuring proper maintenance of emergence services equipment and finally, keeping records and inventories of supplies and equipments which have been put under his care (Haddow & Bullock, 2004).
In the response phase, a coordinator is expected to mobilize people and emergency services towards assisting people in the affected areas. This includes contacting the various groups of responders such as the firefighters, ambulance services, police unit and other first aid givers to respond to the disaster. Once the disaster is addressed and safety ensured for the affected people, the coordinator helps to initiate and manage activities which are aimed at restoring the affected area to its previous condition. This is the recovery phase which involves rebuilding the houses in case of fire destruction, building trenches to drain water in case of floods and so forth.
As an emergency management coordinator, am dedicated to serving the citizens diligently by enhancing their security and preparedness to future disasters. My first strategy is aimed at promoting open communication between all the parties involved in emergency management. This includes the governmental and nongovernmental organizations, groups, individuals and the community at large. I also plan to organize public talks in schools, churches and social halls to enlighten people on various measures and practices of disaster preparedness. In my capacity, i will ensure that in the occurrence of a disaster such as a fire breakout, the all the relevant departments will be always be prepared to respond with haste in order to prevent extensive destruction of lives and properties.
Communication is very important in the process of emergency management. The first thing i plan to do in my newly appointed position as the coordinator is to address the long-standing misunderstandings between the police chief and the fire chief. The public safety food chain which is the source of conflicting interests between the two departments will be moved to another department altogether which will be under the health chief officer.
Chiefs of various emergency departments and the managers of the two local hospitals will always be involved in the decision making processes in matters concerning disaster preparedness. For this reason, i plan to develop a flexible time schedule which require all the key players to hold at least one meeting on a weekly basis in order to discuss viable strategies in which to improve emergency management in the city. This meetings will also help to improve the level of communication among the concerned parties hence promoting effective disaster management.
In U. S, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which is commonly known as Homeland Security is cabinet department formed under the federal government whose major responsibility is implementing and managing emergency services aimed at protecting U. S citizens from terrorist attacks and other disasters (Perl, 2004). Its main objective is preparation, prevention and response to both human and natural disaster within, at and outside the U. S borders.
In prevention, DHS anticipates, detects and reacts to any threats of disaster occurrence which might lead to destruction of lives and property while in preparedness and response, the department mainly ensures that all relevant professionals involved in emergency response are prepared and well equipped to handle any type of emergency at all times.
DHS is very organized with well laid out missions and strategic plans. However, the department has received several criticisms which claim that bureaucratic, wasteful and ineffective (Perl, 2004). From the way the DHS management and strategy plans are currently constituted, there are several strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.
Strengths;- DHS has a well organized method of operation which ensures open communication between all its key players. In addition, DHS partners with universities, research institutes and other relevant sectors in order to improve its ability to detect and deter threats especially those related to terrorism. Funding from different levels of the government helps the department to run its operations effectively.
Weakness;- Homeland security puts too much emphasis on terrorism emergency preparedness than on other disasters. This would prove to be a major challenge in case of the occurrence of other disasters such as hurricanes, floods among others which seem to be of lesser interest to the department.
Opportunities;- improved technology has provided a great opportunity for DHS to improve its methods of emergency management in future. One such concept is the Emergency Management Information Systems which help in the proper utilization of resources.
Threats;- the future is uncertain and with each passing day, new disasters are likely to emerge. Terrorism has especially become a major threat in the U. S and all over the world and this poses a challenge for DHS to come up with new better ways to prevent and respond to such attacks in the future.
Terrorism and threat posed by weapons of mass destruction has increased over the past few years. This has forced governments to take serious measures to ensure terrorism preparedness aimed at preventing and responding to any terrorist attacks in future. For this reason, officials from various emergency services representing all levels of the government have resolved to work together in the development and implementation of different strategies aimed at combating terrorism. Since the September 11 terrorist attack, the U. S federal government has taken extra precautions and measures towards terrorism response. One such measure is the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security to improve security in the country.
Terrorism threats whether on a small or large scale should be a primary concern for the emergency managers since the effects caused by terrorism attacks have the potential of causing permanent damages both physically as well as emotionally. However, other types of disasters should not be ignored as they have an equal probability of causing extensive destruction if not properly controlled.
The U. S government like all other governments across the globe is faced by a major responsibility and challenge of providing security to all its citizens. This is why the government established the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enhance preparedness and response to any terrorist attack or the occurrence of any other disaster. DHS operations require a proper coordination between all levels of the government. This involves cooperation between the state governments, local governments and elements of the federal government which are all responsible for funding and sustaining its operations.
The federal government should be primarily responsible for securing DHS since security is a national issue which affects the entire country. If this responsibility is wholly left to the state or local governments, coordination between the different state governments might prove to be challenging hence leading to ineffectiveness of this security department. The federal government is largely responsible for funding and overseeing most of DHS activities.
With DHS, it is possible to have an effective management and delivery of homeland security if all the levels of governments agree to share responsibilities and address the challenges which come with emergency management. In addition, coordination with the private sector is also important and with the public at large in order to enhance security for all (Buchanan, 2000).
According to FEMA (2006), there are many qualities which a good emergency manager must posses to ensure effective disaster preparedness and response. Some of these include ability to grasp a general overview of the situation, ability to prioritize, analytical thinking, power to delegate, a systematic way of doing things, knowledgeable, calm and collected, decisive, proper communication skills, ability to coordinate activities of different emergency responders such as NGOs, ambulance services among others.
For effective emergency management, several resources are vital for operations. Money is particularly important for funding all the expenses incurred during preparation and response activities. Moreover, the availability of well trained personnel such as coordinators, first aid givers, doctors and drivers is also necessary to give the required services in time of disaster. In addition to money and human resources, other specific needs include proper transport and communication facilities, fire extinguishing equipments, earthquake valves just to name a few.
Today, the profession of emergency management is well equipped with well trained managers unlike before when the profession was seen as a military responsibility. The resources available in this profession have also increased with employment of technological innovations to improve its operations. The recent feature in this field is known as an Emergency Management Information System (EMIS) which assists in the integration of emergency response plans at all government and nongovernmental levels and it also facilitates maximum utilization of all available resources for better disaster preparedness and response.