The following report outlines the main concepts and principles of emergency management by defining, explaining and discussing topics related to emergency management and providing examples of these with real life situations. The report provides an overview of a wide range of emergency management situations and processes, and provides an insight into how important emergency management is, in so many different settings.
There are many different classifications of emergency events, after reading this paper, you should have an understanding of the different classifications of emergency scenarios, understand their impact and see the extent to which emergency services go to prevent, prepare, respond and recover from them, through an integration of management, planning, legislation and community support.
What Are Emergencies/ Disasters
Due to the differing nature of context, conditions and circumstances, this subject has shown that the following states of emergency and disaster are widely defined, with vastly diverse wording but similar meaning.
An accident can be broadly defined as, an unfortunate event that occurs unexpectedly and unintentionally, generally by chance (Oxford, 2010). From an emergency management perspective however, an accident is often considered in numerical terms, in relation directly to casualty numbers. An accident is conceptually categorised as having a death toll or casualty list of between 1 and 1000 (Manock, 2009). This said however, accidents should not only be categorised by casualty numbers, with their impact having a wide ranging effect and devastation, such as economic impact, affect on the community and international ramifications.The Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster in Ukraine in 1986 is a good example to illustrate the above connotations of an accident. There were only 56 direct deaths; however the ongoing impact on the community has seen over 330,000 people re-settled and evacuated, 800,000 members of the community suffer radiation exposure and there have been 4000 directly related cancer deaths and an expected 100,000 more in the future. All of which has had an enormous economical impact due to the vacating of so much land, health and loss of international trade (IAEA).
An emergency can be defined as, an unexpected event which places life and/or property in threat and requires a direct reaction through the utilisation of community resources and actions. The most important factors in evaluating the nature and meaning of an emergency is to take note of the sudden and un-prepared nature requiring the establishment of emergency cohesiveness and action. In the context of this subject, two perspectives have been established for attempting to better define and understand what an emergency is. Those two perspectives are; the perspective of emergency services and a sociological perspective.
An emergency from an emergency services perspective refers to a severe and significant interference directly effecting the population of a community which endangers or causes loss and/or damage and destruction to property which is far greater than the normal capacity of the specific emergency services and which requires unique mobilisation and establishment of resources other than those generally on hand to those emergency departments (Manock, 2009).
From a sociological perspective, an emergency is simply the dicrepancy in relationship to a severe and acute event and vulnerabilty of those effected.
The 2009 Black Saturday fires were an example of an emergency. There was up to as many as 400 individual fires on the 7th of Febuary 2009, caused by a number of serious issues such as arson, lighting and power lines. The extreme conditions and wind speeds quickly made the Black Saturday fires an emergency, with an Australia wide contingent and formation of emergency services made available and desperately needed, community resources and emergency services were pushed to their limit.
A disaster is a sudden disastrous emergency incident, of natural or manmade origin, bringing immense damage, loss or devastation (Oxford, 2010). A disaster often requires the joint effort of more than one community and/or state emergency service effort, as a disaster is generally beyond the coping capability of the community of which it effects and requires multiple emergency service modes.
The Haiti earthquake this year, 2010, is an example of a natural disaster. It was rated as a 7.0 on the richter scale and caused damage of catastrophic proportions, killing as many as a confirmed number 150,000 and leaving iver 400,000 members of the community and surrounding area homeless (Melia, 2009).
A man-made disaster, such as the act of arson in the lighting of huge fires in California in 2007 where a huge 18 seperate fires killed up to 10 people and forced atleast half a million members of the community into homlessness (Lemonick, 2008) or the Attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 by terrorists are just as prolific and damaging as those made naturally. Global warming it may be said is a combination of the two, the disasters which are caused by rising sea levels and global temperatures have been for many years growing and becoming more sudden and disastrous, placing more members of the global comunity, more often, in need of unexpected emergency services.
A catastrophe is an incident that affects the members of a community/society, or threatens to effect, resulting in losses of life and/or property and places the entire community at risk and unexpected, exceptional resources and skills are necessary, some of which may be required to be sought from other nations.
As the definition implies, a catastrophe is a disaster which affects a society in huge terms, on all faces. For example, the Earthquake in Haiti on the 12th of January had catastrophic affects and was the result of a catastrophic strength, 7.0 on the Richter scale, impact. The death toll and homeless rate as a direct result is well into the hundreds of thousands, and the emergency service and resources of the community were completely exhausted and the aid of the United Nations and some 20 international communities have been sought, offering food, aid, resources and military security (Dreazen, 2010).
A calamity refers to an event causing great and sudden damage or distress (Oxford, 2010).It has many of the same connotations as a disaster and a catastrophe.
A hazard refers to the possibility that an event or physical condition could be in the short-term or long-term, the source of harm to people, property, infrastructure and so forth (FEMA, 1997). There are two broad groups which hazards can be broken into; they are, man-made and natural. A man made hazard is an emergency or disaster which has been caused by a man-man hazard, such as the environmental disaster caused by the ocean liner the Pacific Adventurer which caused widespread damage to Moreton Island in 2009. A dormant volcano however would be an example of a natural hazard, one which must be monitored and recorded.
The likelihood and harshness of harmful and unfavourable effects that are a direct consequence of exposure to a hazard is known as a risk. The susceptibility and resilience of a community is also an important feature of risk. Susceptibility refers to the probability or likelihood of an emergency situation arising in a particular setting, while resilience refers to that settings ability to fight the emergency and recover effectively. For Instance, an area such as Marysville in Victoria is a highly dense area of bush and scrub and therefore is more susceptible to the risk of bushfire, however its resilience due to new PPRR and emergency planning joint strategies since the Black Saturday fires, make it an area which should have a high level of resilience.
The Effects of Emergencies and Why Emergency Management
Effects on people
The most obvious effects of emergencies to people are those that are physical. This includes things such as injury and death. While these are the most serious of the effects on people they are not the most common, as many people are left to pick up the pieces and deal with post-emergency events, often manifesting themselves in behavioural issues which can stay with a person forever. Behavioural effects can be attributed to a person losing a friend or family member or anyone who is close to them and plays a part in their life. Relocation due to homelessness and unemployment can also result from an emergency, where their livelihood is destroyed or damaged, leaving them to wondering how they will support themselves, a family, pay bills and so forth, often resulting in depression and other behavioural side effects. The loss of household and personal possessions is common and in many cases can be irreplaceable. The stress and trauma related to having things taken away from you and/or damaged, person or possession, can cause post traumatic stress which may stay with some people for life.
Community structure and effects on communities
Community norms and the ways of life within them are created during times of structure and normality. Friendships are created, rules are formed and a level of comfort is produced which shapes the way a community operates and survives. During a time of emergency, this social normality is interrupted, and often the result is permanent. The loss of people within a community can have an effect on relationships and structures, while damage to property and the environment can force a completely new way of life to be created, using what is left or sourcing new opportunities. The economy, infrastructure, people and environment make up the physical aspect of a community, its spirit is what binds it. Any loss or damage through trauma or effects of an emergency has the ability to both negatively and positively affect the community, bringing it closer together or pushing it further away.
Effects on property, environment, infrastructure, economy
The effects of particular emergency situations vary, for instance a flood effects property, environment, infrastructure and the economy in different ways to a fire, but not necessarily in any less harsh terms. All of these are vulnerable to destruction and loss, however unlike human life, they can be replaced.
Why emergency management
Particular emergency events require particular emergency management and planning, there is not an infinite number or type of emergency situations. It is for this reason that certain emergency planning can be directed to particular events. By creating and having set in place an emergency management system, and contingency plan for specific situations, it is possible to mitigate and prevent, learn from and recover after and during all emergency situations.
Framework for Emergency Management
There are 4 crucial management functions that all emergency managers are expected to exhibit. These are:
Planning can be for short-term or long-term goals. It involves the foundation of successfully achieving goals, and is the most fundamental and important management function. Planning involves developing and forecasting what is required to occur sometime in the future and subsequently creating action plans to facilitate this.
Organising requires the most effective and efficient use of business resources to ensure that the plans and goals of the business can be met. The co-ordination of the human resources, financial resources and other intellectual property is an integral part of reaching managerial efficiency and attaining the greatest level of success.
Leading is the most effective and important way of creating motivation and desire at all levels, and should always be done from the top down. The manager is the leader, and this requires leading by example, showing enthusiasm, setting an example, and showing people how and what needs to be done in all settings.
The planning, organising and leading functions of management, whilst being integral to managerial and business success, do not always work successfully first time, every time. It is for this reason that controlling and monitoring at all levels is critical. Without the function of control, it is very hard to gauge the success of short-term and long-term plans and business activities can become shaky and off-beat very quickly. By successfully controlling and monitoring all of the business functions, any need for change or diversification can be made quickly and efficiently allowing the manager to meet all goals on time. Without control, a manager has no knowledge of what is happening around them (Bateman, 1990).
The planning, leading, organising and controlling functions undertaken for an emergency manager are unique to this field, and relate to the management of these functions in relation to emergency prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. A current and suited example to illustrate this is the Living with fire joint agency initiative which sets out the management strategies and action plans which facilitates the successful use of the PPRR functions.
Prevention refers directly to the measures which are set in place and are designed to help avoid an emergency from occurring, or at the least buffer its affect. The living with fire initiative offers community programs and campaigns that teach the community about fire prevention procedures such as clearing and back-burning.
Preparedness refers to the ability to be actively equipped and organised to deal with an emergency, if one should arise. Once again, the Living with fire initiative focuses on preparedness by delivering frequent community preparedness meetings and having specially trained facilitators on hand to assist in the development of bushfire survival strategies.
Response to an emergency situation can be in the form of help during or after the event has occurred to those members of the community affected and reduce the impact of the emergency on society with a goal or eradicating the risk posed. The Living with fire initiative through its preventative and preparedness plans and media campaigns attempts to create a situation whereby everyone, from those directly affected to those giving aid, understand their role in the response (CFA, 2010).
Recovery can refer to the physical, monetary and mental recovery of those people and areas affected by an emergency. For example, the recovery effort following the Black Saturday Fires which devastated large areas of Victoria in 2009, was exemplary and through the creation of the Victorian Bushfire appeal, raised more than $378 million, paving the way for goods, services and personal to help in the successful recovery process (Red-Cross, 2009).
Linkage of 8 functions into EM framework
The 8 functions; planning, organising, leading and controlling; prevention, preparedness, response and recovery should all be integrated to form a structure whereby all elements work together to form the emergency management framework. The four managerial functions of POLC are used to create and develop successful PRRR roles. There should be no particular order or bias for where and when certain functions of the framework begin, as all are equally important, and too often the emergency management framework, to its detriment, focuses around specific elements, such as recovery.