Emergency management – often referred to as disaster management – is the framework for which companies, communities, and organizations respond to natural and manmade disasters and acts of terrorism. Emergency management is focused on mitigating the risks, preparing for possible catastrophes and disasters, responding to threats or actual disasters, and recovering from disaster.
For emergency management to be effective, plans and contingencies at all levels must be thought-out, well-established and practiced. Successful emergency management must be collaborative, comprehensive, coordinated, flexible, integrated, professional, progressive and risk-driven. Thankfully, the responsibility for developing and implementing disaster response plans is in the capable hands of skilled professionals who hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in emergency management.
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State emergency management agencies are often headed up by experienced professionals that hold either FEMA or IAEM (International Association of Emergency Managers) certification. These agencies operate under a variety of organizational structures, which often dictate how their emergency management programs are organized and administered:
- There are 14 states in which emergency management agencies are a part of the Department of Public Safety
- In 18 states, emergency management is part of the military (adjutant general)
- Eleven states combine homeland security and emergency management
- In 9 states, emergency management is handled by the governor’s office
The Processes, Protocols and Goals of Emergency Management
Formal training and degree programs in emergency management teach that a comprehensive emergency management strategy must consist of the following, four components:
All Hazards – All hazards within an area or jurisdiction must be assessed and prioritized based on their likelihood of occurrence and their basis of impact. In other words, not all hazards can be dealt with and planned for in the same way.
Although there will always be similarities on how one responds to disaster, there are also distinct differences between disaster agents, thereby creating the need to identify and categorize them within the risk assessment process.
All Phases – Any comprehensive emergency management model is based on the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery:
- Mitigation involves preventing or reducing losses from disaster
- Preparedness involves developing plans for responding to disaster
- Response is the actions taken in the wake of a disaster
- Recovery includes all activities needed to restore community function
Successful emergency management involves understanding that each stage involves specific planning and execution and that there are no clearly defined boundaries by which one can measure where one phase starts and another phase ends.
All Impacts – Because natural and manmade emergencies and disasters may impact everything from the economy and human services, to public safety and infrastructure, all impacts that may result may be analyzed and addressed to ensure comprehensive emergency management services are available.
All Stakeholders – Emergency management requires that all levels of government, as well as other organization in both the private and public sectors, work together collaboratively to coordinate their emergency management plans.