Emergency Occurring Is Inevitable. Although Prevention Serves Term Paper

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¶ … emergency occurring is inevitable. Although prevention serves an important role in minimizing the severity of the emergencies that are experienced, prevention is not a guarantee emergencies won't be severe. For this reason, emergency management has been the topic of a great deal of debate in recent years. The emergency response to Hurricane Andrew and more recently Hurricane Katrina, have exposed many problems with the emergency response system in America ("Katrina Compounded"). These problems greatly hindered the response effort and thousands of American citizens suffered greatly in the aftermath of the aforementioned natural disasters. The purpose of this discussion is to analyze some of the lessons learned and changes implemented in the field of emergency management as a result of the impact of Hurricane Andrew on Florida and Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita on the Gulf Coast.

Lessons Learned

There are three main levels of governmental emergency management: local, state and federal. In general, the state has more resources available than the local government and the federal government has more resources than the state government. With this being understood, emergency management plans at each level of government have a responsibility to do whatever is needed to ensure the safety of citizens during and after an emergency.

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Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita it became obvious that every level of government had failed to properly prepare for and respond to a catastrophic emergency. At the local level, the government failed to exhaust all efforts in evacuating citizens, local government also failed to have a safe location for those who could not evacuate. At the state level the government failed to activate and strategically position National Guard troops so that they could properly respond to the tragedy. At the federal level the response to what was occurring in the gulf coast was too slow particularly when it became obvious that the efforts of the local and state government were failing.

Term Paper on Emergency Occurring Is Inevitable. Although Prevention Serves Assignment

An article found in the journal Policy Review explains that one of the most serious problems with FEMA is the poor relationship that is has with local and state agencies. During and after the Hurricane this poor relationship impeded upon the ability of these entities to communicate effectively. In fact the article points out that the events that took place after these serious natural disasters called into question federal participation in natural hazard protection (Roberts 2006). Even before the disaster tat was Hurricane Katrina it was asserted that "Emergency management suffers from... A lack of clear measurable objectives, adequate resources, public concern or official commitments.... Currently, FEMA is like a patient in triage. The president and Congress must decide whether to treat it or to let it die (National Academy of Public Administration)."

According to the article this observation actually came after the Federal government's feeble efforts following Hurricane Andrew in 1992 (Roberts 2006). In fact, following Hurricane Andrew congress confronted FEMA with an ultimatum. This ultimatum posited that the agency would have to undergo significant improvements or it would be destroyed (Roberts 2006). With this being understood FEMA actually underwent a transformation with the assistance of James Lee Witt. Five years later the agency had made substantial changes and many experts believed that the agency was extremely efficient (Roberts 2006).

However by the time hurricanes Rita and Katrina came to the gulf coast it became evident that FEMA had once again become a broken organization. The response of the agency to these two disasters was demonstrative of the agency's inability to respond effectively following a disaster. This inability to respond was especially troubling because it came after 9/11 and the government had supposedly improved emergency management systems (Renner & Chaffe). Experts and citizens alike were dismayed by the delayed responses to an event that the government actually knew was coming (Renner & Chaffe). It caused many to question how the government would respond to a terrorist attack or some other unexpected disaster.

There were several lessons that were learned as a result of the poor response to the disasters mentioned above. One of the main lessons learned was the need to have supplies and manpower positioned in strategic locations so that the response can be quick and effective (Prugh). The responsibility for this lies at all levels of government: local, state and federal. This came particularly evident following Hurricane Katrina when respondents at all levels government failed go into the areas without delay to get supplies to survivors (Prugh; Mcclay).

Another lesson learned has been aftercare. Aftercare is inclusive of such factors of housing, employment and social services. When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the gulf coast many homes and businesses were destroyed ("Katrina Compounded"). This created a situation where people no longer had houses or jobs. In some places the damage done was so severe that people could not return to rebuild their lives. For instance in New Orleans alone 80% of the city was flooded (Tucker, 2005).

As it relates to housing Tucker (2005) explains that in the aftermath of Hurricanes and other natural disasters the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA supplies survivors with trailers. These trailers are designed to provide temporary housing for displaced individuals. In most cases these trailers are placed on the property of the displaced families.

However, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, the flooding and pollution was so severe that trailer cities had to be erected in other cities and away from the communities that people lived in prior to the Hurricane.

Tucker (2005) asserts that the inability of many of these communities to rebuild has to do with the inability of the people to return to their neighborhoods to rebuild. The article asserts

Thousands of residents still haven't been able to return to New Orleans, much less their old neighborhoods or homes, a situation that has further slowed rebuilding efforts. The lessons to be learned from this still-unfolding tragedy are numerous. Obviously, plans for emergency housing must be an integral part of any plan for emergency response. Another, more-subtle lesson is this: Communities recover better from disasters when they're allowed to recover as communities (Tucker)."

Indeed if the issue of emergency housing had been properly considered some of the problems that have occurred in the aftermath of these disasters could have been averted. In the future, emergency management plans must incorporate more effective ways to deal with the issue of emergency housing.

In addition to housing, issues associated with emergency monetary assistance, employment and social services became rather evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Clayton & Spletzer; Brown et al. 2006). Because so many were displaced by the hurricane surrounding cities such as Houston, Baton Rouge and Dallas had to absorb large numbers of people. For the most part these cities did an exceptional job but FEMA was of little assistance in these areas (Whittle, 2005). FEMA gave survivors emergency funds via debit cards, however, some months later it was discovered that many of the people that received emergency funds were not affected by the hurricane. As a result thousands of taxpayer dollars ended up in the wrong hands. This is a prime example of the lack of oversight that existed in the organization at that time.


In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Michael Brown, the director of FEMA during Hurricane Katrina was fired. Beyond that there have been some plans to alter the manner in which FEMA operates. One of the primary concerns is that following 9/11 FEMA became part of department of Homeland security. Many experts contend that this change served to undo a great deal of the improvements that were made after Hurricane Andrew (Hsu, 2006).

Roberts (2006) asserts that one of the major challenges of making changes at FEMA will be to balance the response agency's response to natural disasters with the response that may need to take place if there is a terrorist attack on the nation. The article asserts that While the agency can learn from the past, the solutions that worked in the 1990s do not translate directly to the present dilemma. FEMA faces the challenge of handing more responsibility to states and localities while taking a greater role in preparedness and mitigation than it has ever assumed. FEMA's dilemma is a textbook case in Organization Theory 101. The increasing danger posed by an ever-greater variety of disasters threatens to overwhelm the United States' capacity for effective response (Roberts 2006)."

In some cases in the past FEMA has been able to gather resources in cases of natural disaster and to work with both state and local governments to distribute these resources (Roberts 2006). However the agency has always had problems with having the resources needed to take on multiple tasks simultaneously.

To address this issue many experts have suggested that the agency must be decentralized. This is particularly true in the current environment because the agency is not only responsible for responding to natural disasters but also terrorist attacks and the increasing threat of technological vulnerabilities (Roberts 2006).

These additional responsibilities have created… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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