THE FUTURE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: WHAT SHALL WE
BE?FUTURE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: WHAT SHALL WE BE?
Avagene Moore, CEM
1017 Hayes Road - Lawrenceburg TN 38464-4007
(615)762-4768 Fax (615)762-7359 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Communities, nations, and the world are drawn closer together through television and other
media which provide instant information, communication, and technology transfer. The
various populations of the planet can see and understand, as never before, that they have
much in common and that there is much to be learned from each other. The common threat
of various types of disasters has helped the concept of emergency management spread
throughout the world. As the profession continues to grow and share lessons learned,
expertise, and technology, emergency management directly impacts the welfare and safety
of all nations.
In the United States, emergency management goes back some 50 years. Because of its
history and many changes over the years, the identities of the program and the program
manager are sometimes unclear, particularly at the local government level. This is not true
of the local emergency manager's present-day counterpart in the industrial, business, and
military sectors. This can be credited to the fact that these programs originated recently and
do not carry the historical baggage of 50 years.
The broad emergency management community shares many familiar problems today due to
societal trends, as well as similar program elements and emergency preparedness goals.
Tighter budgets, declines and shifts in populations, and the need for better information
management and utilization of higher technology are but a few of the trends or problems
driving change in the emergency management profession.
The growth of and interest in emergency management in the last few years has also created
a great deal of speculation about its future. Where are the emergency management program
and profession going? How can emergency management accomplish its goals more
effectively and expediently? What if emergency management were structured, funded, and
managed in some other way? What will the educational and training requirements be for
anyone entering the profession? What does the current emergency management
professional need to maintain his or her status in the field?
Although no one can say for certain what the role and function of emergency management
will be in 10 to 20 years, it is fair to say the program will be significantly different in many
ways. This paper will suggest a few possibilities for the future, in light of current trends and
problems, as predictions of what we may be doing tomorrow to meet emergency
management needs in our communities.
The emergency management function in terms of organization, funding, and authorities
within federal, state and local programs pose some very interesting questions and problems.
One only has to watch television news programs to get a glimpse of the difficulties of
considering changes at the federal level, regardless of the program or agency. Numbers of
congressional representatives, federal agency personnel, and interested parties have
testified, written, and suggested changes in the emergency management structure. It is an
uphill battle all the way. If we speculate on the future of the emergency management
program in light of the recent scrutiny, we may conclude the present approach to the
program may be its own worst enemy. The program may need to be addressed from a
different perspective to mature and accomplish its intended purpose.
One suggested alternative is a federally funded, state-staffed program with clusters of
jurisdictions. The multi-jurisdictional emergency program manager would serve as a
planner to address all risks and contingencies, a resource data base manager to enable access
to and sharing of all multi-jurisdictional resources, a coordinator for the training of
multidiscipline emergency services personnel, a source for the latest laws/regulations and
updates on compliance requirements, and the executive-level liaison or chief of staff to the
elected or appointed officials of the respective jurisdictions with which he or she works.
This proposed clustering of jurisdictions is already a viable option in many, if not all, state
codes. It offers many positive advantages, including a standardized job description and a
means of performance evaluation, better use and accountability of resources, working plans
for response and recovery that interface with appropriate personnel/resources, credible
exercises and tracking of remedial actions, and established communications, technology,
and information management. The most difficult obstacle to this type of organizational
structure would most likely be the perceived threat to the status quo.
Another idea that is gaining momentum in larger communities is privatization of assets and
services. Serious financial shortfalls and state laws that require balanced budgets are
forcing many cities and states to consider privatizing or restructuring many of the services
previously furnished by local or state government. Twenty-four of the nation's largest cities
are presently using some form of privatization to cut costs and balance their budgets. The
National Council for Public-Private Partnerships tracks government restructuring efforts
and reports more than one hundred billion dollars worth of services privatized in the last ten
years. Private contractors are presently used in corrections, revenue, treasury, comptroller,
and central data processing functions. Private emergency medical or ambulance services
and trash collection are fairly common examples of privatization that have been around for
several years. However, health care, wastewater treatment, and maintenance of buildings,
roads, and highways are some of the latest privatized efforts that have been accomplished.
It is easy to envision other emergency services, such as law enforcement and fire fighting
under private contract. Public works could also be handled in a similar manner.
If so many of local government's various functions are workable under privatization, why
not emergency management? In some quarters---specifically industry and business---
contractors furnish the hazard analysis, planning, training, exercise design and
implementation, critiques, and anything else required to ensure a facility or corporation's
emergency preparedness status. Many of these industries and businesses are large multi-
facility complexes with huge inventories of resources and the same emergency services
found in the local jurisdiction, including an emergency operations center. The respective
numbers of these emergency services personnel are often greater than those of the adjacent
community. After the appropriate planning and training, these facilities have a well-
equipped and trained cadre of personnel to handle any onsite emergency or disaster with
plans and implementing procedures that address hazards, notification, warnings, public
information, and the interface to bring in and work with supplemental manpower, expertise,
Could this concept work for the emergency management function in local jurisdictions?
The process of planning for response and recovery requires the support of everyone,
including the chief elected/appointed official, other local commissioners or officials,
department heads, administrative personnel, emergency responders, legal counsel, and the
private sector. Someone could be contracted to orchestrate this process and pull all the
players and information together. This contractor would be ideal as an interface with
industry and business to ensure compatible or complementary plans. Once the planning and
implementing or operational procedures are agreed to, the training, exercising, and revision
plus ongoing maintenance of the plan may be handled by a private firm. In the event of a
disaster, the coordination of response and recovery activities may also be turned over to a
contractor and teams of highly qualified people to meet disaster-specific needs. Retainer
fees and contractual agreements to respond to the community within a certain amount of
time, as needed, would ensure the coordination necessary for optimum operational
efficiency when disaster strikes.
This idea suggests a full-time emergency management staff may not be needed to maintain
and enhance the preparedness level if the emergency management program and planning
concept is fully integrated into the community, with officials, the infrastructure, and the
public trained, rehearsed, and ready for their respective roles. Within these conditions,
privatization could save money and meet the emergency management needs of the
jurisdiction, business, and industry, while providing a high level of professionalism,
effective operations, and incident-specific expertise, as needed, for the community.
Opposition to this type of restructuring, regardless of the function privatized, is due
primarily to the initial loss of jobs and can become a political and emotional issue.
However, in many cases the privatized functions could employ displaced workers in similar
or related operations. In the case of the emergency management function, qualified and
experienced emergency managers could be hired by contractor firms to fulfill many
contractual responsibilities and opportunities throughout the state, region, or country.
The option that perhaps makes the best use of emergency management professionals and
addresses funding issues is a holistic approach to a community's overall preparedness status.
For years, the term "comprehensive emergency management" has been thrown around. This
means that the community infrastructure has bought the concept, and the public and private
sectors are responsive as players in the emergency management program. The
comprehensive program is embodied by the model used for establishing a jurisdiction's
Local Emergency Planning Committee to meet the requirements of the Superfund
Amendments and Reauthorization Act Title III and the hazardous materials threat.
Holistic emergency management is a slightly different concept. It looks at the entire
community and considers all players as partners with equal responsibilities for funding,
resources, and support of the program. It is not a program where emergency management
and emergency services plan and train for all contingencies while encouraging the business,
industrial, medical, academic, and public sectors to do their part and be responsible for
themselves. In the holistic approach, the emergency management professional and staff
work at the highest administrative level to ensure the compatibility of all plans for the entire
community. Everything from response/recovery to public education and hazard
reduction/mitigation would be structured as a building block approach for the improvement
of every citizen and all property. The holistic approach would require the emergency
manager to work with and understand risk management, hazard analysis and probabilities,
building/land use codes, policy/decision making, environmental and worker safety laws and
regulations, information management, and the latest technologies. The emergency
management function would utilize emergency services as the foundation for response and
recovery, as in the present program. However, the emergency management function would
encompass other governmental, industrial/business, public, and private agencies and groups
to address mitigation/hazard reduction and broader planning needs. Just as the holistic
approach to health focuses on maintaining wellness and preventing health problems rather
than healing disease and illness, the premise for holistic emergency management is a top-
down approach to reduce hazards and prevent disasters rather than react to them.
The legal authority and funding mechanism for this type of program is a possible problem,
but not an insurmountable one. The overriding goal of a safer community could create a
proactive mindset that would see the advantages and cost avoidance in hazard reduction and
a holistic approach to the emergency management program. Whether through a special tax,
fee, or other funding source at the local, state, and/or federal level, the idea of preventing or
reducing re-occurring disasters is the only thing that makes sense for the safety and well-
being of the citizens of the world, as well as the economy.
Whatever the structure, funding, and authorities of the emergency management program in
the future, it is apparent that continued education and training will be required for the
emergency management professional. The emergency manager's job is moving from an
operational role to an administrative one. With this significant shift, the emergency
manager will move in wider circles to interact with decision makers and impact policy for a
much more proactive program. New responsibilities will require more knowledge, skills,
and abilities. The certification process sponsored by the National Coordinating Council on
Emergency Management will serve as the guide for future growth and maturity in the
program. The Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) status will become more important for
anyone who is serious about maintaining his or her status or becoming an emergency
management professional. The CEM recertification process should require demonstration
of continued growth as a professional based on education and training that keeps pace with
the demands of the profession. Not only will this solve many of the historical problems
related to the functional identity at the local level, it will serve as a means of standardizing
the program among related disciplines and practitioners, and hopefully rid us of age-old turf
problems. The emergency management identity will eventually encompass the government,
the military, business, and industry in such a manner that plans, operations,
communications, terminology, and overall goals are fully compatible and complementary in
a more comprehensive or holistic approach to a prepared community.
Miniter, Richard, "Cities Privatize for Fiscal Health", INSIGHT on the News (April 4,