Governance and Disaster Management
For the U.S. the 2005 hurricane season was a watershed event for disaster management. Since then, the role of government continues to be debated as changes to the structure and responsibilities of responding agencies are made. While the federal government has since made organizational and technological changes, their overall readiness is viewed with skepticism from emergency managers and there are doubts as to whether these changes will be sufficient to produce better outcomes in the future.
Recent Progress and Continuing Challenges
Despite new initiatives and the creation of the DHS Preparedness Directorate to facilitate their integration across federal, state, and local agencies, there remain major communication, logistical, and governance questions surrounding disaster management. While the U.S. has taken the initiative to develop standards for information exchange and communications, they have not achieved the clear federal governance structure necessary to deliver results. State/local governments are experiencing similar governance challenges integrating new homeland security organizations with legacy emergency management agencies. This evolving role of homeland security in state and local government contributes to uncertainty surrounding priorities, governance, and policy implementation. These challenges are not limited to the U.S. Countries with similar independent state governments have responded by implementing cross-jurisdictional plans to address their governance issues. Australia developed a common all-hazards planning and readiness framework to complement state programs and minimize the effects of emergencies and disasters.
Whether responding to a natural disaster or man-made threats, the U.S. needs a holistic approach to planning, response, and management with a clear, strong governance structure that establishes explicit and consistent lines of authority and communication across all levels of government. Until then, the progress made in improving emergency response and management tools will fall short of its potential to deliver better outcomes in future disasters.