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Instructions:

Emergency Management Midterm

The following essay questions are designed to help you demonstrate several course learning objectives. These objectives include:

  • Identify and describe hazards faced by communities in Texas and the United States
  • Recognize levels of community vulnerability
  • Explain the roles of public, private, and nonprofit organizations in emergency management
  • Identify and describe basic strategies for action used to reduce shared risk across multiple political jurisdictions and social sectors (public, private, nonprofit)

You are encouraged to use specific and varied evidence to support your answers. Feel free to use all relevant course material. Cite your sources using whatever citation system you prefer.A detailed grading rubric is attached

Answers to both questions below are expected to total (altogether) five (5) to seven (7) pages (using Times New Roman, 12-point font).

Good luck.

  1. Choose two hazards that are particularly applicable to Texas. Describe the damage that those hazards are capable of producing. Determine how emergency managers recognize those hazards and correspondingly how they identify their jurisdiction’s vulnerability. Feel free to offer examples from past incidents. You may wildfires and floods (Or you can choose whatever)
  • Throughout this course, we’ve explored the benefits of collaboration between organizations. Please identify the context (e.g., the situations and tasks) in which agencies decide to interact. Also, please identify and describe the key factors that promote and/or inhibit inter-organizational cooperation. Be sure to assess key managerial skills that influence the process and cite examples from all three sectors (public, nonprofit, and private). Note these managerial skills aren’t the only factors. Think through this problem carefully [approximately three to four (3-4) pages].

Answer

Emergency Management in Texas

Question one

The two hazards chosen for this paper are wildfires and floods. This paper describes the damage that wildfires and floods are capable of producing. The paper also sets out to determine how emergency managers in Texas go about the task of recognizing those hazards and how they correspondingly identify the vulnerability of the jurisdiction. In this analysis, examples from past wildfire and flood incidents in Texas are presented.

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Wildfires are capable of causing massive destruction to property and loss of human life. In Texas, wildfires have in the past triggered extended spells of heat and drought. They have also led to the destruction of roads, buildings, bridges, water control facilities, parks, and recreation centers. For instance, in September 2011, wildfires in Texas caused severe damage and economic trauma. In economic terms, the damage caused was estimated to be in excess of $5 billion (The US Chamber of Commerce, 2012).

Whenever wildfires strike in Texas, one of the most severely affected sectors is agriculture. They result to poor pasture conditions and stress to crops grown under irrigation. In such situations, many ranchers in Texas suffer from lack of enough hay or feed for their cattle. This forces them to either slaughter the cattle or to sell them. For these ranchers, this problem necessitates emergency management as far as the problem of wildfires is concerned.

Nevertheless, one of the greatest areas of concern regarding wildfires in this state is the deaths they cause and the damage they cause to people’s homes. In the past, some wildfires have destroyed thousands of homes. Such disasters present emergency management coordinators in the state with serious challenges. They are compelled to put in place mechanisms of ensuring that the fires do not spread any further. These coordinators normally require the assistance of the Texas Forest Service in ensuring that the fires are contained within the shortest time.

One of the greatest challenges during wildfire emergencies is that different fires spring up at the same time. This makes it extremely difficult for the Texas Forest Service to ensure timely responses to every instance of wildfire breakout. In such a situation, the emergency responders are compelled to use helicopters, scoopers, and air-tankers to stop the fires from spreading.

From the perspective of ranchers and ecologists, a major concern is on the survival of grass cover following major wildfire disasters. Another area of concern is the impact of these fires on soil cover. Severe wildfires damage ground cover leading to soil exposure. Additionally wildlife habitat is destroyed. For example, the destruction of thick woody cover wipes out the deer’s natural habitat while large vastly burnt areas destroy the nesting cover that acts as the turkey’s habitat.

Similarly, floods have the potential to bring about devastation. Many flooding incidents have been reported in Texas, some of which have led to disastrous consequences. In fact, Texas is regarded by some emergency management experts as the most flood-prone state in the US (Votteler, 2012). A combination of factors, including a cold front, frequent pacific hurricanes, and a low-pressure belt, together make Texas prone to floods. In most of the US, annual rainfall is obtained from high number of low-precipitation events. However, for Texas, most of the annual rainfall comes from a few extremely large storms.

Both coastal and inland flooding poses serious threats to the people of Texas and their environment. For example, in 1979, a tropical storm hit the state and caused massive destruction and loss of human life (Wolshon, 2005). More recently, a tropical storm hit Texas in 2001, killing 40 people and causing destruction amounting to approximately $4 billion (Wolshon, 2005). Given that millions of acres of land in Texas are prone to flooding, there is a need for state and federal authorities to work together in putting in place preparedness mechanisms (Wolshon, 2005).

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Typically, thunderstorms form during the day in the course of intense-heat spells. Afterward, these thunderstorms are followed by flash floods, in most cases during late afternoon hours. The floods usually extend towards the early evening hours. At this time, most people are not able to assess the lurking danger clearly. It is common for a flood to sweep through several neighborhoods during a sunny day because of rain that has fallen further upstream. Such floods tend to push a wall of debris comprising of cars, trees, bricks, and rocks. This wall of debris is transformed into battering rams that knockdown bridges, houses, and all obstacles standing on their path.

In Texas, emergency managers use various mechanisms of recognizing the hazard posed by wildfires and floods. In the case of floods, emergency managers make efforts to identify the various factors that trigger storm formation. This way, they are able to identify all the areas of vulnerability within their jurisdictions. During the 1998 floods, for example, many lives were saved and property protected from damage because the emergency responders had identified areas of vulnerability and had issued early warnings.

In the case of wildfires, one of the most critical emergency management organizations to focus on is the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA). FEMA has continually been engaging with federal, state, and local partners to recognize hazards posed by wildfires as well as to identify the vulnerability of various jurisdictions within Texas. Moreover, emergency management authorities within Texas have in the past been sending community relations teams to disaster-prone areas with the aim of creating awareness on the best disaster preparedness and response mechanisms.

Question 2

            Numerous benefits can be achieved through collaboration between organizations in all emergency management efforts. In this section, the focus is on the identification of context, in terms of situations and tasks, within which various agencies make the decision to engage in interactions. Moreover, an analysis is made on the key factors that promote or inhibit cooperation at the inter-organizational level. It is true that the managerial skills of all those who participate in these collaboration efforts greatly influence the entire process. These influences tend to be far-reaching whether the managers in question operate in the public, private, or non-profit sectors.

            In terms of context, the reality that all emergency management participants have to contend with is that regardless of the efforts made by communities in terms of emergency preparedness, disaster can strike at the least expected time. In most cases, state and local government authorities are usually the first people to respond. Once they are overwhelmed, the federal government joins the efforts to provide additional support whenever the need arises.

In Texas, various statutory mechanisms have been put in place. These mechanisms define the contexts within which various emergency management authorities can interact with each other. For instance, the Stafford Act provides a clear outline of the process of making requests for presidential emergency declarations during major disasters (Hayden, 2007). The Act also provides guidelines on how states affected by major wildfires can request assistance in the form of Fire Management Assistance Grants. The Stafford Act provides for two types of declarations: major disaster declarations and emergency declarations. In both types of declarations, the main objective is to authorize the President to offer federal disaster assistance on a supplementary basis whenever local and state capabilities have already been overwhelmed.

There are many situations where authorities in Texas have had to seek federal assistance during major wildfire disasters. The Stafford Act has been of great relevance in providing for a specific category of declaration that FEMA can issue with the focus being on the grant program set up specifically for fires (Zahran, 2010). This grant, known as Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG), is an excellent source of federal financial assistance, particularly to tribal, local, and state governments. This assistance goes towards mitigating, managing, and controlling wildfires reported in grassland or forest land, whether private or public. The objective is to ensure that such wildfires are put out before they spread further.

In terms of tasks relating to wildfires in Texas, the highest level of interaction between various emergency managers and organizations occurs during the recovery process. At this level, various organizations come together to address the issue of mitigation and costs involved in ensuring that continued destruction is completely avoided. Emergency managers use their expertise to allocate tasks to organizations based on their areas of expertise and specialization. One of the best managerial skills for all managers is the ability to align specific tasks with the core objective. All managers have to be skilled in the art of focusing on the smallest details without losing sight of the overall objective.

Public organizations play the most critical role in emergency management in Texas in situations of both wildfires and floods. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of the most critical institutions as far as emergency management in times of floods and wildfires is concerned. In Texas, the USDA has accorded special status to certain regions by identifying them as Primary Natural Disaster Areas. Moreover, the Texas Division of Emergency Management issues periodic situations that enable people in the Primary Natural Disaster Areas put in place adequate preparedness-related measures.

Similarly, private organizations have a critical role to play during emergencies in Texas. In Texas, private organizations normally join emergency management efforts through private-public partnerships. According to Raisch, Statler, & Burgi, (2007), some of the main areas of active private-sector participation include logistics, food supply, debris removal, insurance, and information technology. Private business organizations are able to make significant contributions because they focus on those areas that are part of their core business. They bring in a crucial element of corporate expertise in disaster preparedness and management.

One of the private companies that have in the past brought incorporate expertise in Texas in times of floods is Shell Oil Company. The company contributed to emergency management in the state during Hurricane Rita, which severely affected the Gulf Coast of Texas. The company participated in both strategic community response to the massive floods and long-term recovery planning. Shell also played a critical role when wildfires swept across some regions in Texas in 2011. Shell worked with both disaster relief agencies and state volunteer commissions in emergency management efforts. The company also donated money to community response teams (The US Chamber of Commerce, 2012). For instance, the Texas Forest Service got $160,000 from Shell as part of the company’s efforts to render support to local fire departments (The US Chamber of Commerce, 2012).

Additionally, non-profit organizations have not been left behind in emergency management in Texas. Voluntary organizations in this state have come together to form Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). When wildfires hit Central Texas in September 2011, VOAD was on the forefront in responding actively to the disaster. During the Bastrop County wildfires, VOAD teamed up with federal and state disaster recovery teams to assist survivors. This required cooperation between FEMA, experts from Texas, VOAD, and the US Small Business Administration (SBA). To facilitate this cooperation, a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) was established. At this center, survivors were taken through the registration process. They were also informed about the various disaster assistance programs available to them.

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One of the greatest challenges during emergency management is establishing and maintaining cooperation between public, private, and non-profit organizations. In Texas, these challenges arise whenever floods and wildfires strike. The expertise of top managers has been playing a critical role in the success of cooperation at the inter-organizational level. One of the factors that inhibit cooperation is differences in centers of command. In many cases, public-sector managers easily disagree with private-sector participants because of variations in priorities. Some private-sector participants tend to portray self-interest in the way they undertake emergency management activities. For example, during Hurricane Rita in 2005, Shell Oil Company focused largely on those disaster recovery efforts that would ensure immediate resumption of the company’s oil business in Texas.

Even in areas where the non-profit and public organizations have a sense of common purpose, it is difficult to streamline activities largely because of variations in levels of expertise, the efficiency of management teams, and the level of commitment to the recovery efforts. During the  2011 wildfires, many non-profit organizations contributed to disaster recovery efforts. Some of these organizations include Bastrop Christian Ministerial Alliance, Red Cross, Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN), and Texas VOAD. At first, it was difficult for cooperation to be forged among these organizations owing to a lack of sufficient managerial skills within the respective management teams. However, when ADRN finally set up a call center, cooperation was enhanced and emergency management and disaster recovery efforts got underway. Nevertheless, given the overwhelming number of calls received per day, it was critical for managers to be skilled in the art of knowing which areas to prioritize on in order to achieve the core objectives of rescue, recovery, assistance, and rehabilitation.

References

Hayden, M. (2007). Information sources for flash flood warnings in Denver, CO, and Austin, TX. Environmental Hazards, 7(3), 211–219.

Raisch, W., Statler, M., & Burgi, P. (2007). Mobilizing Corporate Resources to Disasters: Toward a Program for Action. New York: The International Center for Enterprise Preparedness.

The US Chamber of Commerce. (2012). The Role of Business in Disaster Response. New York: Business Civic Leadership Center.

Votteler, D. (2012). When it rains, it pours – and that can mean trouble for the most flood-prone state in the nation. Is Texas ready for the next big one? New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Wolshon, B. (2005). Review of Policies and Practices for Hurricane Evacuation: Transportation Planning, Preparedness, and Response. National Hazards Review, 6(3), 129–142.

Zahran, S. (2010). Non-linear incentives, plan design, and flood mitigation: The case of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s community rating system. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 53(2), 219-239.

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