Management Essays – Emergency Planning

Emergency Planning

Abstract

The basis of this paper deals with the emergency planning techniques of both the private and the federal sector. They each have their own way of writing and carrying out the emergency plans. There are similarities in each and there are differences in each. However, both have the same goal of protecting people and property.

Thoroughly discuss how private planning may differ from governmental emergency planning. Should there be any difference? If so, when and how.

Planning for a major disaster can take many different forms. On a governmental level, the federal, state, and local governments are responsible for the protection of its citizens. Emergency planning is designed specifically for this area and can come from such things as the use of intelligence gathering and even Congress passing laws like the USA PATRIOT ACT. On a private level, businesses are responsible for the protection of their employees and assets. More often than not, these emergency plans are also dubbed Business Continuity Plans (BCP). These plans help if a disaster like a tornado should strike their area. Even more narrowed down than that, there are even plans for families to help protect themselves in their home. From top to bottom it is kind of likened to a bulls-eye. The outer circle is the Unites States government all the way to the smaller middle part, the individual/family. The bottom line is that it is important to have some kind of plan in place in all levels to ensure the utmost safety.

On the governmental level, one of the main areas of planning and the one that is forefront in the event of a major national disaster is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS was created in response to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. This particular department heads numerous other agencies that assist in the event of a catastrophe of national significance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which was created by Jimmy Carter by executive order on March 30, 1979. (Woolley, 2005) The main goal of FEMA is to put together a response plant to catastrophes that happen in the United States which surpass the resources and abilities of local and state jurisdictions. States also have their own emergency management agencies but when an incident is too much for them the governor of the state where the incident takes place must declare a state of emergency and make a formal request for assistance to the President of the United States that FEMA and the Federal Government respond to the disaster. Like most government agencies FEMA is under high scrutiny whenever a disaster occurs. In recent years the agency has not gotten very high marks for their efforts. Most notably are their responses to natural disasters like hurricanes. They are often criticized for their response times like in the cases of hurricanes Hugo in 1989 and Andrew in 1992. Most notably was the way FEMA (and the government as a whole) handled Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the wake of Katrina, the United States Congress issued a scathing report on how it was handled noting that elements of the National Response Plan were executed late, ineffectively, or not at all. It cited, in part:

  • DHS and FEMA lacked adequate trained and experienced staff for the Katrina response
  • The readiness of FEMA’s national emergency response teams was inadequate and reduced the effectiveness of the federal response
  • Long-standing weaknesses and magnitude of the disaster overwhelmed FEMS’s ability to provide emergency shelter and temporary housing
  • FEMA logistics and contracting systems did not support a targeted, massive, and sustained provision of commodities (Congressional Select Committee, 2006)
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FEMA is just one part of the National Plan for emergency readiness. Another agency in the mix is the Transportation Security Administration. This agency was also started as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks and is also under the umbrella of the DHS. As stated in their mission statement, “The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.” (Transportaton Security Administration, N/A) This particular agency is most noted and seen at our nation’s airports but are also responsible for transportation of land and sea as well. Like FEMA, there have been criticisms of this particular department as well. There have been complaints of invasion of privacy, theft of airline passenger’s possessions, and wasteful spending in its hiring practices.

FEMA and the TSA are just a couple of the many areas in which the federal government has set its emergency planning into motion. As stated before, the governmental agencies are under a microscope and when something fails (or appears to have failed) it will be put into the spotlight. Citizens often turn to their governments for answers and direction, as they should, when a disaster occurs. Some involved in security planning privately feel that there are those agencies that need to do more in the way of explaining emergency and security plans to employees. However they also believe that the government has come a long way in emergency planning since the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

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In the private sector, planning for an emergency becomes more focused. The emphasis is on a much smaller populace depending on the size of the entity whether it be a business, school, hospital, etc. No matter how much planning or preparation an entity does, there can never assurances that all crisis will be handled flawlessly. If a business fails to plan properly, the likelihood of problems during a disaster will greatly intensify. One issue that arises is that the managers of the business and public safety officials sometimes underestimate the issues that may arise during a crisis situation. Administrators normally don’t have experience or prior training with emergency management issues. That is where the area of the Director of Security would come into play. This person would be responsible for writing up the emergency plan (i.e. Business Continuity Plan).

Business continuity plans are essential in helping companies stay afloat through any misfortune and aid them in coming back more quickly after the setbacks. Without the BCP companies could be in great danger of going out of business is a disaster occurs. This could not only impact the business itself but the people it employs and the economy of an area if the business is large enough. Mary Carrido, president MLC & Associates stated, “After the Oklahoma City bombing, 40 square blocks were barricaded off for weeks. This devastated 4,000 businesses; 210 are not in existence anymore.” (Rodetis, 1999) Had there been some kind of back-up plan to help these companies more businesses could have been saved. It’s much easer to minimize a risk than to try and recover from a setback. A thorough plan can take a few months or even years to develop, depending on the size of the organization. Unfortunately a recent study by KPMG, LLP, found nearly 40% of respondents either lacked business continuity plans or had not tested theirs within the last six months. (Rodetis, 1999) In this day and age, especially with the technology available, it is unbelievable that many businesses do not have proper planning. The old adage of not planning to fail but failing to plan comes to mind.

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The next part to discuss is the really whittled down part, family planning (not the kind where you want to have kids). This is extremely important on this level too because families should do things like practice regular fire drills so the whole family knows where to go or find exits from the house in the event of a fire. These plans should also involve making sure fire alarms are placed properly throughout the house and ensure that the batteries are in working order. Also if some sort of disaster should occur while the family is away, there should be different means as how to contact one another and have a known meeting place if the family is separated. One should determine the type of risk that is most likely to happen whether it be a hurricane, tornado, man-made disaster, etc. and prepare for those risks. According to the FEMA website, it is suggested that enough food, water, and other supplies are stocked up enough to last at least three days.

As written in the paper, the governmental and private sectors are different in many ways but the one underlying similarity is the basic need for protection of life and property. The differences are in the way plans are carried out and how they are managed. The federal government would not have to go through the same processes as say a business would to receive assistance. Ultimately some plan needs to be in place on all levels to minimize the risks and if there are areas in the federal level that need to be changed so response times are better or relief aid gets to an area sooner or mandating that all companies have a document emergency plan, then these actions need to be taken.

References

  • Congressional Select Committee. (2006, N/A). Executive Summary of Findings. Retrieved July 16, 2007, from United States Congress: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/katrinareport/execsummary.pdf.
  • Rodetis, S. (1999, February 1). Can your business survive the unexpected?(business continuity plans). Retrieved July 17, 2007, from Journal of Accountancy: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-53878194.html.
  • Transportaton Security Administration. (N/A, N/A). Mission, Vision, and Core Values (Who We Are). Retrieved July 17, 2007, from Transportation Security Administration: http://www.tsa.gov/who_we_are/mission.shtm.
  • Woolley, L. (2005, September 12). FEMA – Disaster of an Agency. Retrieved July 17, 2007, from newsmax.com: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/9/12/102827.shtml.
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