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Disaster Management

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Disaster usually occurs at an unexpected time making it hard for the affected people, country, or region to continue with normal operations (Coppola, 2011). There are various ways of countering the effect of disasters. Some prevent the happening of such events, while some either reduce the impact caused by disasters or help in ensuring that the affected achieve the initial state of their life prior to the disaster (Diane Meyers, 2006). The methods used in disaster management include mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery (Gibbons, 2007). Disaster management program encompass combination of different disaster management methods (Hakkinen, Gilbert, & Mohapatra, 2009). However, these methods differ in usefulness of fighting the impacts of disaster. This makes it hard to decide the priority method.

The success of disaster management program depends on the method utilized. This is because the methods of disaster management yield different results in addressing occurrence of uncertain events. For example, prevention of disaster by not committing things that will possibly lead to its occurrence, yields different results when compared to other methods such as preparedness (Krishna, 2006). This is because, disaster management methods have different times in which, each one of them is applicable.

In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security and Disaster Management has the responsibility of handling and managing disasters properly. In the event of a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, or other major tragedy, the Department of Homeland Security provides coordinated, effective, and comprehensive response and recovery assistance (Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, 2011). The department has a responsibility of ensuring that emergency response professionals are always ready for any kind of situation (Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, 2011).

The Department of Homeland Security and Disaster Management employs different methods of managing disasters. For instance, in achieving preparedness, the department offers online disaster preparedness seminars to families, and provides online preparedness videos for citizens to watch. In addition, the department has citizen corps located in towns and cities to ensure quick response in case of a disaster. The department also has several emergency call centers, which offer rapid response in cases of emergencies (Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, 2011).       

Due to presence of different methods of disaster management, it becomes hard to decide on the most efficient method of managing this challenge, and the appropriate time where one of the methods should be preferred over the other. Therefore, this research seeks to analyze the suitability of different methods utilized in disaster management and the suitable application time in disaster management. The suitability of a disaster management method used in preparations for an emergency, responding to an emergency, and recovering from a disaster, depends on the time taken to implement the method, and the efficiency of the resources used.

The Research Hypothesis

The expectations of this research are; to assist in improving efficiency in homeland security, achieve enhanced speed in the recovery process, and ensure enough resources for dealing with tragedies are provided. Efficiency in the security department relates to the activities done to protect the country from disasters. In the management of disasters, identification of a suitable method is paramount in handling the matter at hand. This entails all activities and programs from different disaster management programs, which are useful in choosing only activities that, improve operation efficiency. Resources needed in combating the occurrence of a disaster could be made available, if the Homeland Security department learns the importance of being prepared to counter a disaster. Preparedness is a useful method, which helps in increasing the recovery speed in case of the occurrence of an emergency. Enhanced preparedness’ strategy can help build trust between the community and the department (Penuel, Statler, & Golson, 2010).

Moreover, an act of rejuvenating the expectations of life of the affected is vital to hopes for life. Recovery process entails transformation of life from an old one to a new one. As a wise strategy, homeland security needs to be in a position to reflect the humanity in them to reality, which will see many have hopes after the disaster. Based on these expectations, the hypothesis of the study will be, ‘the Department of Homeland Security and Disaster Management can achieve efficiency through providing enough resources for dealing with tragedies, and increasing the recovery speed after a disaster.’ Therefore, the null and alternate hypothesis will be indicated as shown below:

Research Variables

Three research variables have been identified, which will assist in testing the hypothesis outlined above. They include, time taken to implement a given disaster management method, resources used when dealing with tragedies, and the efficiency of the disaster management method used by Homeland Security department. According Rahman (2001), the efficiency and effectiveness of a disaster management method depends on the availability of resources necessary for preparation, response, and recovery from a disaster. The local government and other stakeholders, who are concerned with the security of citizens, have the responsibility of providing disaster preparedness systems. Such systems include information and communication systems, expert analysis systems, and space technologies. The functions of these systems are; to make observations, monitor, make analysis, disseminate warnings, collect data, network, and communicate information about possible occurrence of disasters.

Information is a very important resource in disaster preparation. “Effective disaster management depends on the informed participation of all stakeholders” (Rahman, 2001). Widespread of information concerning disaster preparedness can play a vital role in reducing the magnitude of a disaster. Therefore, information about disaster preparedness should be availed to all stakeholders in a consistent manner. The role of disaster managers is to conduct research about potential disasters, make national plans on how to prepare for such disasters, monitor the potential hazards, assess the likelihood of occurrence of the disaster, and assess the risk levels of different disasters. These measures would ensure that all stakeholders have all the information necessary for disaster preparation.

The role of space technology as an information resource for disaster preparedness is to back-up the information and communication systems (Rahman, 2001). During disasters, systems located on the ground infrastructures are likely to be affected, hence cutting off communication between the stakeholders, a situation that can cause risk levels of a disaster to increase. Space technology is usually unaffected by such disasters. Therefore, it ensures undisrupted communication after occurrence of a disaster.

When a disaster occurs, it is important that the necessary resources used in responding to disaster are made available. These resources should always be there to enhance disaster response. The main goal of having these resources is to ensure speedier search and rescue of victims, speedier access to trapped victims, speedier stabilization of the emergency and speedier transportation of injured victims to safety (Rahman, 2001). Such resources include emergency rescuers, medical personnel, ambulances, aircrafts and helicopters, non-human search and rescue systems such as robots, airlift bags, and heavy equipments such as concrete saw, jackhammers, and hydraulic rescue tools such as spreader cutters, among others.

Resources important in recovery from disaster include emergency power supply, medical supplies, food and clean water supplies, and sanitation and waste management resources. These resources are core in restoring the lives of the victims back to normal; if not to the way they were before the occurrence of a disaster.

The aforementioned resources should be in a position to provide preparedness, response, or recovery assistance in an efficient manner. Stakeholders can ensure efficiency of the resources used in disaster management by ensuring that they are available at all times, and they are functional. For instance, equipment and fuel-powered machineries used in disaster response should be serviced on regular basis. This would ensure that they are always ready to function whenever a disaster occurs. The state’s department of security should have stand-by ambulances, aircrafts, and medical personnel who can provide emergency relief services, while others continue with routine services.

Time is also of essence in ensuring efficiency of disaster management methods. Stakeholders involved in implementing one or more methods of disaster management should ensure that time taken to implement a given method is kept at minimum (Disaster Management: Strategy and Coordination, 2010). For instance, information concerning disaster preparedness should be disseminated to the stakeholders as soon as such information becomes available. This can be achieved by employing effective methods of communication. Currently, mobile devices and the internet can be used to pass information on disaster preparedness very quickly.  

A research study conducted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 2009/10 concluded that, post-emergency effects of catastrophes depend on the time taken to respond to disasters and in the recovery process (Disaster Management: Strategy and Coordination, 2010). Quick response to a disaster assists in providing quick rescue operations to victims hence reducing the number of casualties. Many researches on disaster management indicate that many casualties, which occur immediately after a disaster are because of lack of rapid responses to the situation. Lack of immediate commencement of recovery efforts after a disaster can also contribute to more casualties because of hunger, poor sanitation, lack of water, or lack of access to medical services. Therefore, to ensure efficiency of any disaster management method, disaster management experts should observe time discipline.

Research Findings

The research findings indicate that the Department Homeland Security and Disaster Management have put in place a number of control measures to ensure efficiency of its activities. The department has an established disaster act: the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which was enacted in 1988 and later amended in 2000 (Moss, Schellhamer, & Berman, 2009). The Department of Homeland security carries out the provisions of the act through it agency known as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). The act provides that the federal government should provide 75% funding for acquisition of disaster management resources, while the local government should provide 25% funding for the same (Moss, Schellhamer, & Berman, 2009).

The Stafford Act also provides that victims of natural disasters and terrorist acts should be provided with immediate assistance. This include; immediate removal of debris from the disaster site to aid in rescuing trapped victims, provision of medical assistance to injured victims in public healthcare facilities (unless where an individual chooses otherwise), use of federal and state governments’ funds in repair and restoration of infrastructures and personal properties such as houses destroyed by the disaster. In addition, the act provides that mitigation funds should be provided to disaster prone areas to aid in implementing disaster control measures (Moss, Schellhamer, & Berman, 2009).

A research study conducted by Garnett and Moore (2010) reveals that employment of sound strategies for restoring health and livelihoods of victims of catastrophes ensures efficiency in disaster management methods. Garnett and Moore evaluated the approaches used in providing recovery efforts in six different disasters in United States. They found out that, where victims of those disasters were provided with immediate relief, in terms of medical care, food, clean water, and sanitation systems, the number of post-emergency casualties was minimal (Garnett & Moore, 2010). In such areas, victims of disasters were found to recovery quickly from the effects of the disasters, and they were able to reconstruct their lives with ease, as compared to victims of disaster areas who were not provided with immediate recovery assistance after occurrence of a disaster. From their research, Garnett and Moore suggested three approaches to efficient disaster recovery: incorporation of recovery goals while preparing for a disaster, expanding the knowledge base of the stakeholders on disaster recovery strategies, and developing measurable outcomes in disaster recovery plan (Garnett & Moore, 2010). Inclusion of the three strategies would ensure efficiency of disaster management methods used in disaster recovery process.

A research study conducted in 2008 by Goodwill reveals that the department of Homeland Security has improved its disaster response capacity since 1992: after occurrence of Hurricane Andrew, one of the largest natural disasters in records. These improvements include; increased capacity of local governments and NGOs to respond to disasters, inclusion of other twenty six agencies, apart from FEMA, in-coordinating disaster response, provision of direct assistance to America citizens in disaster-hit areas, and increased financial assistance to affected areas (Goodwill, 2008). Goodwill points out that these improvements have assisted in achievement of efficiency in disaster response to affected citizens in the United States and in other parts of the world.

In terms of preparedness, Homeland Security has continuously provided resources used in monitoring disasters, disseminating information concerning likelihood of occurrence of disasters, and maintaining disaster prone-areas to reduce the likelihood of disaster occurrence. For instance, FEMA operates an Incident Command System, which allows flexible communication of information concerning disasters among the stakeholders (Birkland, 2008). FEMA has also developed an international response system: TOPOFF, to enable United States interact with first responders, federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and its international partners while preparing for perceived terrorist attacks (Goodwill, 2008). Development of TOPOFF started in 2000, with the first version of the system: TOPOFF being developed in 2000 and the current version of the system: TOPOFF IV being developed in 2007. FEMA ensures that its disaster management systems are up to date with technological advancements, for them to remain efficient (Birkland, 2008).

Conclusion

From the research findings, it is clear that the Department of Homeland Security is determined to achieve efficiency in disaster management. Through its security agency: FEMA, Homeland Security ensures that all the necessary resources for disaster preparedness are availed to local governments and other stakeholders. Availability of these resources allows the stakeholders to prepare adequately for emergencies. The department has put in place technologically advanced methods of communicating disaster related information to all the stakeholders. In addition, the Homeland Security department ensures speedy response to disasters and immediate commencement of recovery efforts in disaster-hit areas. The department has provided the necessary resources, which ensures that victims of emergencies are rescued quickly, and recovery assistance is provided to survivors of catastrophes as soon as a disaster occurs. Through the Stafford Act, Homeland Security has managed to ensure availability of funds, which are utilized to acquire the necessary resources for disaster preparation, response, and recovery.

Based on the research findings, it is clear that the efficiency of disaster management method depends on the availability of resources, the efficiency of the resources, and the time taken to implement a disaster management method. Therefore, we fail to accept the alternative hypothesis, and accept the null hypothesis, which states that, ‘providing enough disaster management resources and enhancing disaster recovery time will help the Department of Homeland Security and Disaster Management to achieve efficiency’.

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