Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Heirarchy of EM needs--Parroting A. Maslow

Abraham Maslow is famous for his writings and study of the so-called heirarchy of Human Needs that underpin our humanity.

Increasinly I am supportive of the notion that Emergency Management is not a contrived subject or profession but in fact underlies much of organizational process that leads to various forms of governance. Some wit, perhaps Winston Churchill, once stated that "democracy is the worst form of government, except all others"! Well IMO [in my opinion] EM is the worst form of organizational response to crisis management and resilience (that includes elements of preparedness, planning, prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery) except all others. What alternative choices are there? Well one big one is a "military command and control" system that actually can prevent effective collaboration and cooperation, whether among individuals, NGO's, governments, or other spontaneously developing post-disaster organizations. Since over 90% of the nation-states have vested their EM function in their military-organizationally designed to inflict maximum organized violence on some other group or nation-state--I find that this approach is largely vested in a leaderships desire for control and resurrecting the status quo ante. These factors are not absent from EM but seem more likely not to dominate when the civil sector is dominate.

And always remember that I find it remarkable that the underlying good sense and American inventivness is what in reality caused EM to develop. The term of course goes back even institutionally to the FDR era when the Executive Offices of the WH had an EM section. None-the-less the term got its remarkable rebirth when the STATES in an unsuccessful effort to restructure the federal civil defense program operated from 1951-1994 under Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress as amended started to develop a new paradigm for disaster efforts. Just as the crucial failure of the STATES and their local governments had failed to see the need for civil defense and development and knowledge of radiological defense as part of their existing public safety sector, the clear and always present danger of natural hazards was driving the need for both enhanced effort and efficiency in the Public Safety arena and others. Thus it might well have been either the policing profession or the Fire Service which became the leader in EM and either or both still might given the numbers of personnel involved. But the incrased complexity of organizing for crisis management and response, and in particular recovery meant that the traditions and paradigms of those professions could not truly encompass EM adequately.

Now of course after 4 decades, given the developments both nationally and internationally in EM the increasing expertise and standards of the EM profession and its academic community indicates to me that over this century it will in fact become a wholly new field of human endeavor and likely to be adopted among many of the nation-states that now utilize a military model.

And tracking back to A. Maslov, exactly what is the pyramid or building block of EM that might be agreed upon. As always I can offer only a suggestion but others will decide and argue over its merits. I deliberately don't use the Maslow Heirarchy of needs but do recognize their relevance to this discussion.

So here is my approach.

First, underlying EM should be competence and technical knowledge and experience.

Second, should be organizational and governmental relationships that facilitate resilience (including planning, preparedness, prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery).

Third, would be public education of individuals and families to clearly give all an accurate vision of capability and systems that can be brought to bear in a crisis or disaster and what the limitations are on those capabilities and systems without further dedication of resources.

Fourth, a basic mobilization structure incuding personnel and logistics and other systems that will be necessarily employed when the planning basis or basic capabilities of the existing organizations and systems are proved inadquate to the tasks necessarily expanded by the incident or event beyond the planning basis and day to day capability and system.

Fifth, a way to integrate technical and scientific and engineering knowledge into EM on both an on-going basis and in an emergency with facilitation of the expertise of various professions and those with training and experience that might be of assistance. The medical profession should not be stove-piped for example but deliberate mechanisms created and operated so that that profession can operate comfortably in the EM realm, both independently and as advisors to political decision makers so that protective action recommendations and decisions are able to prevent the larger catastrophe possible by misinformation or lack of knowledge.

In summary perhaps, the system of EM must promote collaboration and cooperation so that the system is supportive of the best rsilience and while individual brilliance will from time to time appear and needs to be utilized, systems and processes must reflect the collective wisdom of those involved with the EM process in any crisis or disaster.

It is this last concept that shows that we have a long way to go. Just as Maslov recognized a heirarchy of needs I open debate here I hope on exactly what is necessary to establish priorities and systems and processes that reflect on the reality that the crisis or disaster does not end when food, water, shelter, emergency medical assistance, and even public safety has provided a secure environment. It is the totality of the effort and judgement needed based on all factors that makes EM so exciting and worthy an endeavor.

And to focus more closely on the real goals of Homeland Security not EM it is necessary that basic civil security is the mission of Homeland Security. This is a far different mission than the EM discipline and profession and organizations I have attempted to describe above. HS reflects only one of Maslov's needs--safety--and absolutely none of the others. EM represents all his higher order needs.

Check out for a detailed discussion of Maslov and his writings and teachings.