Disaster Preparedness


Write 1 page original response to post below. Assessing preparedness and crisis response is a difficult challenge, because there is not one truly correct outcome. Even those organizations that handle a crisis well have some areas that they could improve upon and some areas where they may have focused more attention that they actually needed. According to Gerber and Robinson (2009), it is especially hard to rate the success or failure of a crisis response because they happen infrequently and therefore you cannot compare the response to similar events. At my job, for example, I can tell you, on average, how many times a certain component on an aircraft fails each year. If we were to begin alternative practices for maintaining that component, we would be able to see whether or not our action led to any direct improvements. However, if an active shooter were to come in and barricade himself in our hangar, regardless of how we handled the situation, how would we know if we had been successful? Even if injuries and damages are low, how can we be sure that we couldn’t have prevented them at all? Or maybe our response was strong and we did save as many people as we possibly could. We can assign values for measuring success, but really there is no way to compare reality to a hypothetical (Gerber & Robinson, 2009). Instead of focusing on what we cannot measure, Gerber and Robinson (2009) suggest three ways to assess an organization’s preparedness for a crisis. While preparedness cannot always predict the success of a response, Stern (2013) asserts that there is a plausible assumption between preparedness for a worst-case scenario and being able to tackle a crisis effectively. Two of the assessments are subjective accounts, through surveys or interviews (Gerber & Robinson, 2009). The two methods of surveying focus on asking participants how they feel about their level of preparedness or to ask about physical preparations, such as where response plans and resources are located. With subjective accounts, there is always the risk of bias, in people not wanting to sound less knowledgeable that they actually are or having less access to the information than others within the organization. The third assessment is in the collection of documents (Gerber & Robinson, 2009). For example, training syllabuses with muster sheets or a physical response or communication plan. The issue with this method is that just because a document exists, it does not mean that it was correctly utilized. At my organization, we regularly sign training muster sheets to put a check in a box without actually receiving the training. Even though we look prepared, there is a hug gap between what the papers say we know and our actual knowledge. Gerber and Robinson (2009) highly recommend a combination of assessments to help weed out bias and get a more detailed picture. If an organization has the time and resources to dedicate to multiple assessments, that is great. If not, I personally believe that surveys about the physical aspects of crisis preparedness would be the most effective in helping an organization to find where they are the most vulnerable and what aspects of their crisis response plan need to be made more transparent. In terms of disaster preparation, one needs to expand outside of one organization to a regional approach, as a tornado or terror attack is unlikely to affect just one group. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security following 9/11 was a response to this type of regional threat (Gerber and Robinson, 2009). With the pressures to work regionally, however, there are many issues that have begun to emerge. First is the allocation of responsibility. If a crisis occurs in a smaller, poorer region, should a larger, wealthier neighbor be responsible for more of the cost of mitigating the disaster? If so, do they get a bigger say in how to handle the situation? Since government representatives would be stretched too thin if they were assigned to committees for every possible contingency, a hierarchy of response needs to be agreed upon when working with multiple organizations. Birkland (2006, as cited in Gerber & Robinson, 2009) argued that even the language used to define a crisis can cause jurisdictional confusion, as an “emergency,” a “disaster” and a “catastrophe” would likely be handled much differently due to politics and scale. Similarly is the question of whether each organization in the region would be financially or physically able to uphold a plan handed down to them from a national or regional level (Gerber & Robinson, 2009). For example, Manhattan may have no problem providing a large number of policemen to contain a riot, but a town with a population of 900 may struggle to balance their own needs with those of the region’s. Similarly, producing expensive preparedness plans could bankrupt some towns or leave them without vital services as they are forced to reallocate funding. Think, for example, of funding diverted into anti-terror preparedness after 9/11 and how that may have affected the ability to mitigate the damage of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. One practical and legal issue is that of licensing and the ability to share resources (Gerber & Robinson, 2009). If an EMT is certified in one state, he or she is not automatically certified in a neighboring state. In the case of an interstate disaster, cooperation between jurisdictions may be limited based on which medicines are approved where and which responders are allowed to legally assist. Without putting limitations on states’ rights, federally and regionally mandated programs could be difficult to uphold in practice. Even with the current limitations being faced, disaster management is moving in a solid direction by focusing on cooperation between organizations. Disaster response is never done in isolation and fostering relationships across various public and private organizations is crucial to the quick containment of any crisis (Jenkins & Goodman, 2015). Gerber, B.J., and Robinson, S.E. (2009). Local government performance and the challenges of regional preparedness for disasters. Public Performance & Management Review, 32(3), 345-371. Jenkins, S., and Goodman, M. (2015). ‘He’s one of ours’: A case study of a campus response to crisis. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 23(4), 201-209. Stern, E. (2013). Preparing: The sixth task of crisis leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies, 7(3), 51-56.

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