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Disaster Management - An organized structure in the midst of a chaotic event

By Jamey Perkins

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Disaster management, or Emergency Management, can be defined as an organized yet multi-tiered structure of trained personnel tasked with the challenge of preparing for, and dealing with disasters and the short term effects. Disaster management does not start upon the happening of a disaster, but rather much further ahead of a disaster, if it is to be effectively managed.

FEMA, working directly under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for leading Emergency Management at all levels of emergency response. FEMA is also responsible for setting up parameters and guidelines in which those responders will operate, as well as educational processes.

The idea of managing an emergency is to do so at the most basic level. It would simply not be efficient or successful for emergencies to be handled by top tiered organizations within the framework of emergency responses.

Emergency Management first starts with the sole recognition of an emergency. It is then determined at what extent the emergency will have an impact, and what resources will be needed to properly handle the event. In most cases, emergencies can be sufficiently managed within the simple network of local responders, consisting of fire, medical, and law enforcement personnel. However, when an event occurs that stands to surpass the available resources of a local system or region, there are protocols in place to start a chained response to fill the needs of those involved.

The basic structure of a successful Emergency Management effort includes:

  1. Preparedness - Being prepared for an emergency is ongoing. Responders are trained for crisis, they practice their strategies, they plan their roles, and they critique their actions in order to make necessary corrections. The goal is to create, implement, and to follow a well rehearsed scenario, so that confusion during an event is mitigated.
  2. Communication - Perhaps the single most important factor dictating the outcome of any emergency response is communication. An effective response to a crisis of any level requires communication. Whether it simply be communication inside one department or interdepartmental communication, it would be simply impossible to perform any type of emergency management without communication.
  3. Know your resources - It is key that all involved in an emergency have the training and ability to recognize the need for resources, as well as know what resources are available and how to obtain them. Some resources can come in the form of local logistics, manpower, more highly trained responders, or even monetary funding needed. One of the most common resources used among all levels of response is the American Red Cross.
  4. Command structure - Within any effective emergency management, must lay a preformed hierarchy of command. In the United States, the Incident Command System (ICS), has been created and standardized to alleviate any questions or concerns over how this hierarchy should be set up, and how it should change as the crisis unfolds.

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was created and set up to be a template for how an emergency response should be managed. Since it is now mandatory for all professional responders to be trained in how the NIMS system is to work, those responding to an emergency can now have a firm grasp on the hierarchy of a command structure, and how to operate within that structure.

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