Emergency and Disaster Management
Table of Contents
Poor coordination among local, state and federal agencies has been cited as one of the loopholes to swift response to national disasters and effective evacuation of victims. A majority of observers and researchers on past national disasters have recommended joint training and exercise of different agency recruits to enhance coordination, especially regarding national matters. Joint preparation efforts yield such benefits as creation of coordinated leadership, proper planning and creating awareness of national procedures such as the National Response Plan. The following research paper discusses the importance of joint training and exercise among various agencies to improve inter agency coordination during a disaster incident response.
Creating Coordinated Leadership
National catastrophes such as 9/11 witnessed that uncoordinated leadership brought about confusion and delayed response. Since every agency has its own mission and line of command, there were several overlapping and confliction efforts. Although all these efforts had the legitimate idea of solving the issue, they overstepped each other and brought about unnecessary chaos and wastage of resources. This confusion made it impossible to get accurate and timely information about the facts on the ground due to the ongoing uncoordinated activities. The delay caused by uncoordinated chains of command was made worse due to bureaucracy. Bureaucracy caused unnecessary delay and further repetition of efforts since every single proposal or idea had to be approved by several individual teams in agencies where the idea originated. The principal federal officer gave orders trying to bring sanity and control to the various agencies. However, this did not bear any fruit due to variation in system structures. Some of the agency officers would report to their offices for commands issued by the principal federal officer to be reversed. During the September eleventh disaster, so many people asked about the people in-charge. The response they got was, “Of what?” It was unsure who was responsible for which roles. These unclear roles caused a huge lapse in time during this disaster management since consultations had to be made occasionally on which agencies could handle such roles. However, generally agencies followed their missions and commands and tried to solve the issue without a lot of consideration about other agency’s officers. This would occasionally lead to a clash due to overlapping of efforts and more time was spent to agree on how to share such activities (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2014).
Awareness of the National Plan by All Officers
Poor knowledge of the National Response Plan (NRP) cost time and lives during hurricane Katrina. The researchers have proven that during the worst hurricane that hit the nation, almost all levels decision makers had no idea what the NRP suggested in case of a disaster. Joint training and exercise will ensure that all current and future decision makers are aware of the NRP and other national documents on disaster management. This will increase efficiency and coordination of local, state and federal agencies during national disasters. The NRP lays a general plan of action that gives a general guide to agencies on how to run things. These agencies should develop their own operating procedures that give finer details on what should be done, where, when and by whom. During this hurricane, almost all the agencies had either incomplete or no operating procedure documents. This led to confusion as every agency operated on uncoordinated orders and did not follow laid down procedures. Apart from lack of knowledge of the NRP, most of the agency decision makers at different levels had no clue of what the Incident Command System (ICS) entailed. This is because only a few officers were trained on the ICS procedures. During the hurricane Katrina, a lot of resources were employed in last minute effort to train staff on the ground. This not only wasted time, but made use of resources that would have otherwise been employed for the actual disaster control. Joint training and exercise of local, state and federal agencies to improve inter agency coordination during a disaster incident response such as Katrina should create awareness of NRP and other national protocols. Citizens should also be educated on general contents of such national disaster management documents. This can be done with the help of awareness campaigns at institutions such as schools, churches and places of work. Ensuring that the citizens are aware of general procedures will help to increase synergy during such operations. Some of the volunteers during rescue operations end up getting hurt because of doing things wrongly. The citizens affected by such disasters should also be aware of the efforts being made towards their rescue. This knowledge can help them be patient and keep calm. Panic and commotion always increase the number of injuries and casualties. Prior preparation of people will help to control crowds and calm them down to facilitate rescue operations (Hunter, 2009).
Enhanced Planning and Preparedness
Joint training and exercise among local, state and federal agencies will improve inter agency coordination during a disaster incident response by enhancing proper planning and preparedness of all agencies. Lack of proper preparedness and planning is another weakness that is mainly brought about by the separate training and chains of commands during disaster response. Joint training will ensure that every officer is aware of the National Preparedness goal (NPG) and the target capabilities list. These are two national tools of disaster preparedness and planning. These tools will assist decision makers at all levels in analyzing the necessary resources, establish shortages, prioritize limited resources, assign roles to individuals and share resources with other agencies. Disaster preparation should begin before the actual occurrence of a disaster when the nation is in a stable state. Lack of proper preparation causes confusion among decision makers, thus, they are not able to take the appropriate decision. This is the reason why several efforts should be made on a trial and error basis and why changes should be made once the efforts proved futile. Proper preparation will help to give decision makers confidence to take accurate decisions which they will delegate to their agencies as execution orders. Operating officers will also be confident of their leaders’ decisions and be able to execute them properly. Such lack of confidence was experienced during the 9/11 disaster when the officers would defy orders of the chief federal officer. Preparation involves a series of activities. These include joint training, planning and exercises of all disaster management teams. Officers should be evaluated according to their qualification after the training. Preparation also involves acquisition of necessary disaster management equipment. Joint acquisition is more efficient as resources can be coordinated and shared where necessary. Preparation also involves documentation and publication of the agreed disaster management processes and activities. Publications on the proper line of command are also an essential part of planning and preparation. This document should include the agreement on how to share resources. Proper joint planning and preparation of disaster management will save the time and lives. This joint preparation should be done before the actual disaster to avoid last minute efforts such as the training of officers on the ground of ICS requirements during the hurricane Katrina (Coppola, 2011).
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Improving Information and Resource Management
Joint training of different federal agencies will help to enhance resource and information management. This training will help to establish agreed methods of taking inventory, restocking, mobilization, sharing, care and recovery of resources during and after a disaster management incident. Past disaster experiences proved that many resources are misused due to the diversion of efforts of all the agencies. Most of the agencies have acquired similar disaster management equipment that does the same kind of work. This means that the teams have similar resources and whatever lacks in one agency happens to lack in all other agencies as well. There was also huge loss of resources after the disaster management exercise. Joint training of agency officials will assist in establishing a mechanism of sharing and recovering of resources once the disaster management exercises are over (Daniels, Kettl, & Kunreuther, 2006). This will save the nation’s income and also maximize the use of both human resources and equipment. Joint training will also lay down the accepted channel of communication, sharing information and information management. Establishing a single channel of communication will save time and assist the agencies with coordination. Different channels of communication caused confusion and overlap of roles in the past which slowed down the disaster management. Sharing available information will also enhance efficiency and effectiveness of communication. This is because any alerts or developments during the disaster will be known to all the agencies. Information and communication management helps to ensure that information is disseminated to all agencies and all levels effectively. This cuts off bureaucracy which inhibits the flow of information from top level downwards in a trickle manner. Disclosing full information to all agencies will enable the agency heads to brainstorm and consult with each other, and hence, make a unified decision that is more precise. Communication and information management thus promotes decision making process by making it faster and more effective as it is backed by timely information. Then the decision is shared and the best team is chosen for the role to carry out the execution. Joint information and communication management also involves sharing technologies. The use of technology during disaster management includes computerized record keeping, output of data, data analysis and tracing information sources (Santacroce, 2013).
Improving Public Relations
Joint training of agencies will help to improve government’s public image and relations. Public relations involve the use of media to create awareness of existing efforts and plans that the government has made to manage disasters. During the past disasters public relations between the government and the public were not at its best because most citizens did not access the media that the government used to create awareness. These channels include public radio stations that attract a small number of listeners while the majority is locked out. The volunteers of past disasters did not have a clue as to how to give their services in various situations. This shows that the majority of the citizens were not aware of evacuation processes and procedures. The minority who had heard the messages were also not fully informed since such media trainings were hurriedly carried out during actual disasters managements (Oosterom, Zlatanova, & Fendel, 2005). This issue was addressed with the release of different information and advice of different local, state and federal agencies. Joint training of local, state and federal agencies will boost public relations by releasing common and unified messages to guide the public. Giving a unified message will also curb tension generated by rumors caused by lack of the clear sense of direction (Franks, 2013). Joint training of local, state and federal agencies and unified public relation activities also promote accuracy of the information that is given to the public. Proper public relations promoted by a joint taskforce consisting of representatives of all agencies will assist with creation of believable awareness of any impending risk, for example predicted threats. In many cases the public is always caught up by a disaster even after request to vacate such areas. This complacency shows that citizens do not believe in different information released by different level agencies. Conflicting information such as time and intensity of predicted disaster makes citizens doubt the whole information or delay acting and hence they are always caught in disasters. Joint public relation efforts should involve not only media coverage but also acquisition of the equipment and resources that the citizens can use during disaster management. These resources may include evacuation shelters, transport means for emergencies as well as supplies to cater for the public while in evacuation shelters (Wachter & Birch, 2006).
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Funding of Proposals
Coordinated leadership, proper planning and joint preparation for disaster management will ease funding of the proposed projects and budgets. Budgeting together, local, state and federal agencies will save a lot of taxpayers’ money. Proper joint budgeting increases the efficiency and effectiveness of resources. It will also ensure that the allocated income is utilized sparingly to maximize utility and reduce wastage. Currently, the agencies of disaster management had to do with cut budgets. This is because government cannot always allocate all the income that these agencies require separately. Even when such budgets are fully funded, they end up wasting taxpayers’ money. It happens because these agencies fund similar projects and purchase similar disaster equipment. The wastages of public resources will be halted if the proposed joint training and preparation of government disaster response teams is performed. This move will also help to get rid of redundant roles, posts and resources by acquiring just what is enough to meet the public’s demand (Birkland, 2006).
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Joint training and exercise of local, state and federal agencies to improve inter agency coordination during a disaster incident response has endless benefits. These benefits include improved planning and disaster preparedness, full funding of the proposed projects, improvement of public relations, awareness of national response plan, coordinated leadership and enhanced information and resource management. Joint training saves the nation’s resources since budgeting will eventually be carried out on a joint basis. Joint training creates public relations since accurate and unified information on disaster management is sent out to the public. Coordinated leadership helps to create a unified chain of commands during national disasters. This removes bureaucracy and makes communication and commands clear. Coordinated leadership between local, state and federal agencies helps to save time, lives and property during disaster management. Past disasters demonstrated that many local and state agents were not aware of the National Response Plan (NRP). NRP is the backbone of all disaster operations performed by different agencies. Lack of awareness of this plan and other national systems such as the ICS has created confusion during disaster management as the decision makers use their instincts only to give commands. Information management and sharing is another major benefit that will be accrued from joint training efforts. Information sharing will boost disaster management since all information on developments and changing state of a disaster is timely and accurately communicated to all agencies.