Defining Emergency Management in the 21st Century

The future of emergency management as a profession lies in building a consensus on the roles and responsibilities of emergency management agencies as well as on the core competencies considered necessary to build a comprehensive emergency management program. With over 87,000 governmental entities in the United States alone, there is a strong need to have a cohesive and broad-based National Emergency Management System that is ready to effectively respond to disaster events. As is true for any system, the success of the Emergency Management System rests primarily with its designers and operators.

In March 2011, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8) on National Preparedness, which is intended to bring the nation together as a whole to prepare for disasters that threaten U.S. security and resiliency. PPD-8 refocuses preparedness efforts nationwide both by building consensus and by establishing a National Preparedness Goal and System that, combined, define preparedness more precisely and focus additional emphasis on community resiliency and sustainability. The directive also places the responsibility for preparedness on all Americans – the community as a whole – and calls for the establishment of a consensus on defining preparedness-based capabilities at all levels of government.

Emergency management programs are designed to restore stability in time of crisis. However, the emphasis on emergency preparedness remains the same: to develop all-hazard, integrated strategies for an effective response and recovery to all known threats, including terrorism. To meet that ambitious goal, community efforts must necessarily stress the all-hazards approach to integrated emergency management.

Additional Reductions, Necessary Changes & a New Preparedness Goal

Today, government leaders are looking for ways both to reduce expenses and to manage budgets more effectively. However, there also have been reductions in the resources available to respond to a community’s needs in times of crisis. Those reductions have created a significant demand for the development of regional strategies to coordinate incident-management and resource-deployment policies and operations. Emergency management agencies therefore must be better prepared to justify the funding of preparedness and mitigation initiatives; successful emergency management programs must also take into account a varied spectrum of regional vulnerabilities and integrated response systems.

Funding is often used to drive compliance and to bring about some necessary changes. U.S. House Report 112-09 on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 2012 Appropriations Bill points out that almost $38 billion has been spent during the past ten years to increase government capabilities to effectively prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Nonetheless, some members of Congress remain concerned that there is no comprehensive objective assessment either of capabilities, or of the gaps that remain, to ensure an effective nationwide emergency preparedness capability.

As funding becomes even scarcer, emergency management – like many other areas of emergency services – will have to become much more strategic as well. It seems likely that local emergency managers will become far more reliant on public-, private-, and even nonprofit-sector stakeholders to ensure sustainability and resilience at the community level. In addition, integrated regional emergency operation systems probably will be required to provide strategic support for local operations.

This past September, DHS released the first edition of the National Preparedness Goal – a document that outlines the core capability targets for each of five mission-critical areas: Prevention; Protection; Mitigation; Response; and Recovery. Collectively, these targets: (a) serve as the benchmarks needed for defining preparedness across numerous disciplines and jurisdictions; and (b) provide a helpful operational tool both to measure preparedness levels and to identify any remaining gaps in capability that must be addressed.

Peelian Principles Updated

Emergency management may benefit from examining the principles for modern policing attributed to Sir Robert Peel (a former British Prime Minister considered to be father of the modern police force). The Peelian Principles, which were originally created to define an ethical police force, are founded on the belief that government must be held accountable. Peel also pointed out that the community as a whole shares the responsibility for vigilance. In other words, there must be a shared responsibility for community sustainability and resilience.

Whether it is community policing or community preparedness, many of Peel’s principles are designed to integrate community and government as partners in protecting and responding to threats against the community. Using the Peelian Principles as a guide, the following nine concepts may be helpful in developing the standards needed for today and tomorrow’s emergency program managers:

  • The basic role for emergency management is to recognize, identify, and prepare for disasters that cause or create disorder.
  • The ability of emergency managers to prevent and mitigate the impact of disasters is, in part, based on public acceptance of the mitigation measures put into place.
  • Emergency managers are responsible for developing the strategies needed to educate public, private, and nonprofit leaders, and everyday citizens, on known threats and vulnerabilities. That responsibility includes providing information about the steps each must take to ensure a sustainable and resilient community.
  • The degree to which public cooperation and compliance diminish as restrictions are imposed is proportional to: (a) the lack of information available; and (b) the failure to reach consensus on the need for such actions.
  • The development of plans, policies, and procedures that are based on validated capabilities will help promote public respect for and trust placed in emergency managers.
  • Emergency managers should develop emergency operations strategies based on appropriate hazard-identification and risk-analysis processes.
  • The strategically important development of local emergency planning committees will facilitate relationships between all stakeholders and emergency managers.
  • Emergency managers are accountable to the community and therefore should coordinate response and recovery actions and activities in a manner consistent with local laws, regulations, and an approved emergency operations plan.
  • The efficiency of preparedness efforts is demonstrated primarily by the ability of the community as a whole to effectively respond to, recover from, and mitigate the potential impacts of crisis. In other words, efficiency should not be based solely or exclusively on compliance with emergency planning regulations.

New Opportunities “At All Levels of Government”

To briefly summarize: PPD-8 and the National Preparedness Goal offer emergency managers at all levels of government a new opportunity to refocus on the core values that have proven successful in the past. Local efforts to achieving the National Preparedness Goal begin with establishment of a local emergency planning committee (LEPC) to assist with building support for community-based emergency preparedness and prevention initiatives.

Each LEPC should include representatives from critical infrastructures within the community – including schools, hospitals, and a broad spectrum of public works and public health agencies as well as faith-based and cultural leaders, the local media, and other organizations deemed essential within each community because of their respective roles in response and recovery. Individual members of the LEPC should be selected because of their expertise, experience, and commitment to preparedness, sustainability, and resilience.

In 2012, there will in all likelihood be a return to the basic skills and competencies that on a continuing basis have made emergency management a dynamic community-based program. The emphasis remains the same, though: to develop all-hazard, integrated strategies for the effective response to and recovery from all known threats, including terrorism.

Achievement of that goal begins with collaborative, integrated emergency management planning that stresses a “whole community” approach.

Anthony S. Mangeri

Anthony S. Mangeri, MPA, CPM, CEM, is the chief operating officer and principal at the Mangeri Group, LLC, and president of the International Association of Emergency Managers’ (IAEM) Region 2. He currently serves on the IAEM-USA board of directors and is a board member of the Philadelphia InfraGard Members Alliance. Before the Mangeri Group, LLC, Anthony was the assistant vice president for Mitigation and Resilience at The Olson Group Ltd. Before that, he served as a town manager, where he navigated the community through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, was responsible for local emergency preparedness, disaster recovery operations, and played a key role in the establishment of a municipal police department. Anthony also served as the New Jersey State Hazard Mitigation Officer for over a decade. During the response and recovery to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he was the operations chief at the New Jersey Emergency Operations Center, where he coordinated the state’s response efforts. Beyond his professional achievements, Anthony has committed over 35 years to serving as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician. He holds a Master of Public Administration from Rutgers University and has completed a fellowship in Public Health Leadership in Emergency Response. As a Certified Professional Coach, Anthony continues to contribute his knowledge and expertise to the emergency management community.



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