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Disaster response and recovery

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    Disaster response and recovery

    The term disaster refers to a perceived tragedy that could either be a natural happening or a man-made calamity. It is therefore a condition that poses as a threat to life and property hence affecting the society and environment in a negative manner. Disasters have been perceived as being the consequences of incorrectly managed risks. This is because disasters occur due to the failure by human beings to set up the suitable disaster management measures. The occurrence of disasters calls for the proper management of such disasters so as to limit the amount of damage that they could create.

    Disaster and emergency management entails four main stages that include preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. Pre-disaster forecasting and prediction measures serves as early warning signs of the disaster. These are followed by adequate preparedness measures that should include an analysis of the relief management capacity. A damage assessment is carried out followed by appropriate relief management. Efforts to restore the damaged economic and social infrastructures within a society back to normal then follow.

    Disaster and emergency management is the responsibility of the government which is required to carry out the four stages of disaster management. There are three levels of government; federal, state, and local, and each has its own role in the management of disasters that could take place within the jurisdictions of the levels of government. The amount of responsibility varies from one level of government to the other with the local government having the most of the responsibility of managing disasters within its area. Below is a discussion of how the three levels of government act with regards to a fire disaster.

    The Federal government

    The federal government is the last resort in tackling disaster management and usually follows when the state government has been unable to effectively manage the fire disaster. The major responsibility of the federal government is to supplement the efforts that have been made by the local and state governments in tackling the fire disaster. It responds to the various requests made for federal assistance by the state government. It is a resource provider hence making up for any shortfall that may arise in managing the disaster as well as providing the necessary training to the various personnel in the three levels of government to enable them tackle fire disasters in a better manner.

    It is also tasked with providing precise and timely information to the other levels of government which include the lessons that have been learned from previous fire disasters so as to develop effective mitigation measures. The federal government provides the necessary funds to enable recovery from the disaster both on the environment and economically. This financial assistance is in the form of grants and loans to the state and local levels of government that is aimed at offsetting the huge costs of countering the negative effects arising from the fire disaster.

    The Department of Homeland Security was formed with the aim of consolidating the efforts of the federal government in protecting and defending the nation. One of the major directorates of this department is the Emergency Preparedness and Response directorate that is charged with overseeing federal response and recovery in the event of domestic disasters and emergencies. Under this directorate is the Federal Emergency Management Agency which is responsible for coordinating all disaster management procedures at the federal level (Bush, 2002). FEMA, formed in 1979 merging five federal agencies responsible for disaster management, manages the Disaster Relief Fund established by the president which is the major source for all finances to be used in the event of a disaster.

    The mission of FEMA is to control and reduce the loss of property and life as a result of disasters and hazards through the provision of a comprehensive emergency management program. There exist three major types of responses by the federal government towards a domestic disaster; crisis management, consequence management, and technical operations. Crisis management occurs when a disaster is imminent or has already taken place. The federal government undertakes investigations as to the causes of the disaster in this case fire which could lead to federal prosecution if it is found to have been done with criminal intentions.

    Consequence management entails the various measures that are utilized so as to alleviate the negative effects such as damages, loss, and suffering that could have been caused by the fire. Consequence management will include such measures as restoring important government services, the provision emergency relief to the affected areas, and the protection of public health. Technical operations are utilized during disasters that are thought to have involved the use of biological, radiological, or chemical agents which could pose a great threat both to life and the environment. In such cases, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as well as the Department Of Energy could be called upon to assist in the management of such a disaster.

    The role of the federal government in response and recovery from a disaster such as fire is administered by the Stafford Act (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1996).  The governor of the affected state could declare a state of emergency and appeal to the president to declare the disaster an emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is notified as well. In the event that the president declares an emergency, a federal coordinating officer is appointed who works together with the state coordinating officer. A disaster field office is set up within the state from which the emergency response team consisting of representatives from the twenty six federal agencies involved in disaster management in addition to the American Red Cross.

    Following a declaration by the president of an emergency, the state affected by the fire disaster will draw up an agreement with the federal emergency management agency that is aimed at establishing the duration of expected assistance, type of assistance required, the areas that will need assistance and the cost sharing conditions to be followed. As such, it is evident that the role of the federal government is the provision of the resources necessary for adequate disaster management which is beyond the capabilities of both the local and state governments. These resources include finances in the form of grants and loans, skilled personnel, equipment, and training services.

    The state government

    The state governments serve the most critical role in disaster response and recovery for disasters that have occurred within their borders. The federal government can not intervene in the management of a disaster that has occurred within a state unless the state governor declares a state of emergency and asks fro assistance from the president as required by law. The governor and the various state agencies are required to adequately, plan, organize, respond and recover from a disaster that occurs within the state (National Governors Association, 2002). In addition, the state plays an important role in disaster management as it is the link between the local government and the federal government.

                In the event of a disaster such as a fire occurring, the governor is expected to mobilize the state resources so as to provide the required assistance in responding and recovering from the disaster. As such, the governor could carry out any of the following measures: Call upon the National Guard to deploy its resources in tackling the disaster as well as reassigning other state agency personnel in to the response and recovery process;

    Order the immediate evacuation of the population that has been directly affected by the fire; Forbid the performance of certain activities within the areas that the fire could have occurred, Commandeer private property; Suspend certain state statutes that could hinder response and recovery measures; Authorize the expenditure of state emergency funds to carry out response and recovery activities. The governor could even enter in to mutual aid agreements with other states so as to foster effective disaster management.

                All states maintain emergency response offices which in most cases are organized similar to the federal emergency management agency. This office is responsible for coordination of the emergency response and recovery program for the state and publishes relevant emergency response plans for the state. This office controls all response and recovery efforts of the state. In addition, all states are expected to have emergency response plans that usually set forth the different roles that state agencies involved in emergency management as well as the respective local governments have to ensure well coordinated emergency plans (Nilsen & Olsen, 2007).

                These emergency response plans establish the necessary links and relationships necessary between the three levels of governments (National Governors Association, 2002). This because there is need for a teamwork approach towards the management of emergencies and disasters such as fires which in most cases result in massive losses if not well managed. The National Guard is usually state based and normally made up of well trained personnel who are able to control a disaster such as a fire when the emergency is raised. Some of the state agencies that are called upon during a disaster within a state include the state department of energy, the department of public safety, the department of environmental protection, the emergency response commission as well as the health and welfare agency. The National Guard will be called upon by the governor when these agencies require additional resources to be able to manage the disaster.

    All of the costs that are incurred in the use of state agencies and the National Guard in management of a disaster within a state are borne by the specific state until when the governor declares the disaster an emergency and calls for help from the federal government (Scavo, Kearney & Kilroy, 2008).

    The local government

    The local government has the primary responsibility of managing any disaster and emergency that arises within its area of jurisdiction. Local governments have direct access to the people and are more aware of the problems that may arise within their areas of control more easily and fast. The local government is therefore the lead body responsible for managing a disaster such as a fire and other levels of government will come in hen he local government is unable to control the fire adequately. The local police departments, medical personnel, fire fighting departments, rescue units, local non governmental organizations and other voluntary groups are the first groups to undertake the management of the disaster.

    The local government will offer medical services, water, electricity, housing, and communication infrastructure to the affected areas while offering mitigation procedures so as to effectively manage the disaster. It is the responsibility of the local government to ensure order and safety is maintained within the affected areas and may order an evacuation if the fire is not contained and could lead to the loss of lives of the people living in that area. In doing this, the local government needs to take the following factors in to consideration: the duration of the fire, the extent of damage, the threat that the fire poses to lives and property, the speed at which the fire is spreading and the need for evacuation.

    The local government needs to carry out an assessment of the disaster so as to know whether it can effectively manage it or call for assistance from the other levels of government (Thatcher, 2005). An Emergency Operations Plan sets out the roles and responsibilities of the different local government agencies that are to be involved in the management of disaster such as a fire. The Emergency Operations Plan addresses the response and recovery measures to be undertaken by the local government and forms the basis of actions that are followed in the event of a disaster occurring. The plan should be consistent with the Emergency Management Plan used by the state.


    Bush, G. W. (2002).The Department of Homeland Security. Washington, D.C.: The        White House.

    Federal Emergency Management Agency. (1996). SLG 101: Guide for All-Hazard          Emergency Operations Planning. Washington D.C.: Federal Emergency          Management Agency.

    National Governors Association. (2002). A Governor’s Guide to Emergency Management          Volume Two: Homeland Security. Washington D.C.: National Governor’s           Association.

    Nilsen, A., & Olsen, O. (2007). Resistance or acceptance? Mitigation strategies in risk    management. Risk Management, 9(4), 255-270.
    Scavo, C., Kearney, R., & Kilroy, R. (2008).Challenges to federalism: Homeland security          and disaster response. Publius, 38(1), 81-110.

    Thatcher, D. (2005). The local role in homeland security. Law & Society Review, 39        (3):635-676.


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