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Management Paper

Title: Emergency Disaster Management

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Contents

Question 1. 2

Question 2. 5

References. 8

Question 1

Emergencies can strike at any time. They are unpredictable and they always strike in a surprisingly terrifying manner. In most countries, authorities take a reactive approach to emergencies. A reactive approach is a situation whereby disaster mitigation measures are prioritized at the expense of prevention, control and preparedness measures. Authorities in these countries should switch from reactive to proactive measures. In order to do this, different emergency and disaster management organs such as fire departments, the police, and the army should work as a team in order to ensure that whenever possible, emergencies are prevented from occurring.

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            Every year, emergencies come in the form of hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, a major rail, road and plane accidents, terrorist attacks, tsunamis, floods, mudslides, and mine accidents among many others. In most cases, it is impossible for emergency teams to do anything in the onset stages of emergencies. However, all is not lost for jurisdictions that emphasize on a proactive approach. In some of these disasters, predictions can be made with a fair level of accuracy. For instance, geologists may be able to predict an earthquake and give warnings. This is a classic example of a proactive approach to emergency management.

            Proactive approaches to emergencies can be advocated for both in the public and in the private sector. Awareness of the appropriate measure that should be taken in case of any type of emergency is one of the best ways to prepare for an emergency. Authorities should carry out public awareness campaigns while non-governmental organizations should be seen to be sensitizing the public about ways of reducing vulnerability in times of emergencies. These organizations should not be seen emerging out of nowhere to offer “help” once an emergency situation has arisen, only to disappear even before the life-shattering effects of these disasters have eased off.

In the majority of cases, small-scale emergencies aggravate into large-scale emergencies because of a lack of resources to deal with the early effects of disasters. The aggravation often takes the form of human, environmental and material damage. Research has shown that in times of emergencies, the greatest damage, which occurs a few moments after the onset of a disaster or accident, can be minimized if there were proper proactive measures in place. When no such measures are in place, everyone seems to be at a loss. This creates a sense of helplessness, a situation that negatively affects the recovery, mitigation and life-saving efforts by various emergency management groups.

Efforts at preparedness and mitigation should not be just about being able to accumulate the right tools and machines of dealing with emergencies; they should also be about creating awareness and psychological preparedness about awful things that may happen in the future. When citizens and disaster managers live with a psychological feeling of preparedness, they can effectively react in the right way when the unthinkable happens. Their actions are likely to bring about a situation whereby lives are saved rather than lost.

All proactive approaches to emergency management should be flexible, such that they control, response and mitigation strategies can be reorganized in order to accommodate local, national and international emergency organizations depending on the magnitude of disasters. Reactive approaches leave little room for flexibility since they are characterized by poor planning, poor coordination, and misplaced mitigation priorities. All stakeholders seldom get an opportunity to participate in the seemingly chaotic efforts to save lives and property.

The foundation of a proactive approach to emergencies is the creation of a national disaster management policy. This policy should define the roles of various relevant agencies. It should also name and assign roles to all stakeholders and if necessary, provide them with funds. The policy should also spell out the nature of partnerships and associations that stakeholders in disaster prevention and preparedness should enter into in. the role of each partnership should also be defined. This would go a long way in avoiding conflicts of roles and interests in emergency preparedness undertakings.

Quite a number of disasters that happen today are man-made. Through a proactive approach, it is easy to differentiate man-made and natural disasters. When a man is to blame for a disaster, this should be pointed out and long-term measures put in place so as to ensure that a repeat of avoidable disasters never recurs. It is through a proactive approach that ‘accidents that are waiting to happen’ can be dealt with in order to avert disasters.

In many developing countries, emergencies tend to leave poor citizens very vulnerable to diseases. By putting proactive measures in place, governments can reduce the high level of suffering that descends on poor populations in the wake of major catastrophes. Disaster management stakeholders can prepare by stockpiling medical supplies, makeshift tents, and relief food.

Question 2

Emergency management efforts often suffer setbacks because of the presence of organizational silos. When organizations act as silos, their efficiency is clouded by the thinking that this silo should take this approach while that silo should take that other approach, regardless of whether or not the execution of these duties is in line with a particular silo’s prevailing circumstances.

Fenwick et al (2009, p 24) express the fear that when silos become the basis of assigning tasks, it is difficult to win in terms of efficiency of emergency response efforts. Silos are often reinforced by the state through legal provisions that mandate different organs of enforcement to perform certain duties and not others. This emanates from the bottlenecks of legislation and law enforcement. In times of emergencies, silos should be used to be as a source of cohesion rather than divisions. Teamwork efforts should always be embraced a silo that has superior-quality resources should facilitate the sharing of tasks with other people from outside the silo who may have experience in using these resources.

Although members of one silo can perform a specific task more effectively compared to another silo, this strength may sometimes be transformed into a source of weakness if different silos are not coordinated in order for a common goal to be achieved. In order to avoid this, a silo that is involved with, say, environmental management should pay attention to and follow the guidelines laid down by silos that deal with the maintenance of law and order such as the police and the military. For this to happen, there should be a law that seals all the “disconnects” that may make such coordination efforts to fail.

Officials who are in charge of each silo should meet often in order to lay down strategies of dealing with emergencies within the provisions of existing laws and policies in order to save as many lives as possible (Potter et al 2005, p. 52). Such meetings are particularly very important in areas that are prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, mudslides and volcanic eruptions.

            The reality of all emergency situations is that different organizations find themselves working in silos. The silo-approach is often considered the most effective strategy within the prevailing circumstances. To a certain extent, this kind of thinking seems plausible, on condition that there is an umbrella authority hat assigns duties in order to prevent any overlap of tasks. When there is an overlap of tasks, there may be a creation of the impression that one silo is inferior to the other. When this happens, members of the silo that is widely perceived to be inferior may feel aggrieved and they may even pull out of emergency rescue operations. For this reason, the coordinating agency, mainly consisting of senior government officials, should be committed to the principle of impartiality whenever they are assigning tasks to different silos.

            Silos arise within organizations mainly due to the proliferation of a silo-mentality, the main causes of which include a breakdown of communication, lack of cooperation and poor coordination efforts. All external parties should be integrated into rescue efforts. They should not be perceived as curious bystanders. When the silo mentality finds its way into emergency rescue efforts, resilience, both at the community and at the professional level, can never be achieved.

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            At the organizational level, the need for resilience should be prioritized. It is only resilient organizations that manage to conduct “business as usual” even in the face of great adversity. For this to happen, managers of organizations have to rise above the call of duty within the organization so as to form synergies with external players, the main aim being the creation of a sense of community confidence.

            Silos arise from cultural phenomena that impede organizational resilience. Dealing with silos is part of emergency preparedness efforts. This task should be handled through an appreciation of the cultural factors that reinforce the silo mentality. Departmental leaders in various government-based emergency management organizations should be on the forefront in raising awareness on how the culture of silo mentality can impede emergency response efforts. The right organizational behaviors should be prescribed. The behaviors should be uniform across the organizational divide in order for unity to be guaranteed in the wake of disasters and catastrophes.

            In some cases, the silo mentality arises as a strategy of trying to access the available emergency response facilities and resources in a bid to build the reputation of a certain body or enforcement agency such as the military or police. The best way to deal with this situation is to ensure that all bodies that are offering relief services to survivors of disasters have equal opportunities when it comes to matters of access to resources.

            The spirit of teamwork should be glorified such that the yardstick of measuring the success of emergency response efforts should be the number of lives saved, property salvaged and so on, rather than who did what. When leaders of different emergency response units fight for control of the entire operations, the silo mentality is sure to trickle down to the junior staff. When these team leaders forge a common course of action instead of withdrawing into their respective silos, emergency response efforts automatically become an instant success and a sense of community resilience is created.

References

Fenwick, T., Seville, E. &Brunsdon, D. 2009. Reducing the Impact of Organizational Silos on Resilience: A Report on the Impact of Silos on Resilience and How the Impacts Might Be Reduced. London: Macmillan.

Potter, M., Sweeney, P. & Thomas, C. 2005. Connecting Silos: The Legal Bases for Public Health Emergency Response in Pennsylvania, Journal of Public Health Management Practice. 12(3), 50-56.

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