Emergency Management

The term Emergency Management is somewhat new, having been coined since the days of the Cold War.  Previously, the term Civil Defense was familiar to most and it dealt with preparing for and responding to a nuclear threat.  Now, it makes sense to prepare people in times of peace as well. 
 
The world of emergency management has grown rapidly since the 9/11 incident and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security.  It used to focus mostly on natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods.  It has since expanded info manmade disasters--terrorism.
What is Emergency Management?
 
Emergency Management is the discipline dealing with preventing, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from emergencies and disasters.  Thie diagram below shows how the four phases of emergency managment are connected.
 
Mitigation deals with eliminating risk or reducing its effects.  An example: fastening a file cabinet to a wall stud will prevent it from tipping during an earthquake.
 
Preparedness covers all the steps one would take to get ready for an emergency or disaster.  Examples include training on evacuation procedures, fire extinguisher use, search and rescue, etc.; also, the stocking and maintenance of disaster supplies.
 
Response is the phase during the emergency when people and plans go into action.  Actions include disaster medical care, search and rescue, debris removal, sheltering and feeding victims, etc.
 
Recovery is the process of getting life back to normal.  Steps include damage assessment, repairing and rebuilding, reestablishing contact with customers and vendors, human resources support and counseling for those most directly affected, etc.
 
Once recovery steps are done, the next likely step to take is to address those areas where risks can be reduced or eliminated for the next disaster--back to Mitigation.
 
It is a neverending cycle of activity, all centered on protecting life, property, and the enviornment.
What does an Emergency Manager do?
 
Many emergency managers work for cities, counties, and other government entities.  Emergency managers are also found in private businesses, non-profit organizations, the utilities industry, and in the armed services.
 
Often, it is is not a full-time job.  In a small town, the person responsible for emergency managment may also be the fire or police chief.  It may be another city employee with other duties such as a building and safety engineer.  In the private sector, it is often the person in charge of security, facilities, environmental safety, or even human resources.
 
One of the duties of an emergency manager is to create and maintain an "Emergency Management Plan" for his/her jurisdiction.  The plan spells out who is in charge and what must be done to handle emergencies and disasters.
 
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires businesses to have both a Fire Prevention Plan and an Emergency Action Plan to protect the employees.  These are usually written by the emergency manager or whoever is in charge of risk management.
 
Emergency managers develop plans, train people, design and implement disaster exercises, and are the center of attention during an actual disaster.  They have been compared to the stage manager in a theatrical playhouse -- they don't actually put on the show; they coordinate the actions of everyone else.
 
It makes good sense for private industry to invest in emergency training programs for its employees since it is often they who will assist in getting the business back on its feet after a disaster.
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