Monday, August 30, 2010

Definitions-Emergency Management

In enactment of PKEMA 2006 a statutory definition of Emergency Management appears in the US Code for the first time stating as follows:
"the term ‘‘emergency management’’ means the governmental function that coordinates and integrates all activities necessary to build, sustain, and improve the capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, or mitigate against threatened or actual natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or other man-made disasters"!

From my webpage at as follows:

"Emergency Management is the organization of the governmental and non-governmental organizational response at the national level (federal, state, and local) to unexpected events that threaten public health and safety and property, and the civil sector preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery to and from those events."

From the document Principals of Emergency Management (2007) based on a collaborative effort led by Dr. Carol Cwiak, PhD to outline a baseline agreement document on EM, and that definition reads:

Emergency management is the managerial function charged with creating the framework within which communities reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters."

I am sure that many more definitions exist somewhere else. Naturally I like mine the best but understand like the Kuroshawa movie "Rashomon" somewhat controlled by the eye of the observer.

It is interesting to me to note that the term "Emergency Management" goes back to the era of FDR and was used in an organizational context when an Office of Emergency Management used for an office in the Executive Offices of the White House. Perhaps of interest that when an Office of Emergency Planning created in 1961-62 in the White House (later renamed the Office of Emergency Preparedness) the term "management" was not utilized again. That stated it does seem that EM is a small professional cadre's attempt to focus on the public administration aspects of emergencies and domestic crisis management. With fewer than 10,000 academics, practioners, and retires, it is not a huge body of personnel and some fear that with the passing of the generation that concieved of, implemented and operated the Federal Emergency Management Agency it has an uncertain future. I am not such a doubter. Why?

To me, just as EMT operations and HAZMATS operations today are principle activities of the FIRE SERVICE I would argue that EM could easily have come out of the FIRE SERVICE like EMT and HAZMATS. Two things precluded this. First, although civil defense against German air attacks on England in WWI and WWII were prepared against and responded to by the FIRE SERVICE, this was not really the pattern for the US. Instead a federal agency was created, the Office of Civil Defense, which even had a first lady for an official for a period of months, this organization had the job of stimulating the STATE and local governments to prepared for any air attack. This organization did not really survive WWII however and with the passage of the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950, Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress, and enactment in 1951 an independent Executive Branch organization was established the Federal Civil Defense Administration which was not under the authority of the SECDEF but totally independent. Then following Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1958 when authority was vested exclusively in the President for certain emergency authorities including civil defense.

It is clear that once the atomic bombs were dropped after development that there was little interest in the FIRE SERVICE on taking on the tasteless, oderless, unseen, unfelt hazard of radiological releases. The medical profession was however an early adopter of radiation medicine and the profession of Health Physics largely developed to study the techical issues raised by radiation impacts on the human body.

Okay so EM again began to appear as a label in the early 1970's and was extensively utilized by the NGA in its Emergency Management study (6 volumes) that lead in part to the formation of FEMA. I will leave to others to document this history more closely.

Then when in 1994 Public Law 103-337 repealed the Federal Civil Defense Act but did incorporate a small portion into the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707) it largely substituted the words "Emergency Management" wherever the term "Civil defense" occurred in that previous act. The few exceptions that persist of the term "civil defense" appear to me to be just a case of legislative oversight.

IN a way I believe that perhaps the term should more accurately be "Civil Emergency Management" to reflect the fact that the profession of EM is largely a civil activity and cases in which the active or reserve Armed Forces of the US are utilized are very rare now although not at one time. ON this blog in other posts I have discussed issues relating to employment of the National Guard under Title 32 of the US Code when operating without being called to active duty and federalized under Title 10 of the US Code clearly seem to justify despite the military organization and chain of command falling within the purview of civil government. Especially since all NGs take a State Oath of Office even though they take a federal oath also. See US v. Persico (1983?) involving deployments internationally of the NG when in training status. The dual oath requirement was examined in that case when the Governor of Minnesota sued to prevent deployment of his NG units during their two weeks of training outside of the US.

So when discussing EM will try and use the additional word "Civil" until I can figure out how to avoid confusion with the CEM usage for Comprehensive Emergency Management. Perhaps, AH EM for all-hazards EM would be a better choice than CEM.