Emergency management

The federal government's responsibility for emergency management is crucial to ensuring that catastrophes are dealt with quickly and effectively. The federal government carries out a variety of emergency management actions and measures that are divided into four phases: mitigation/prevention, preparedness, reaction, and disaster recovery actions. This essay will conduct study, examine, and offer criticism on the emergency planning and management functions of FEMA. In order to learn more about FEMA, the study will employ a variety of methods, including online research and interviews. The study determined that FEMA undertakes vital emergency management process through coordination of its efforts to establish, sustain and enhance its capability for mitigation, preparing for, safeguarding against, response to, and recovery from a crisis event.


Emergency Management is a crucial role of the government which refers to the discipline that handles threats to a nation and risk avoidance. The primary goal of emergency management is to develop an accurate, operable, feasible and cost-effective emergency plan to assist a country or an organization to deal with various unforeseen events; thus saving lives, preserving property and maintaining a stable social, ecological, economic and political environment. The state, local, and federal authorities; NGOs, tribal governments, as well as the private sector must have emergency management to deal with the diverse emergencies that include both natural and manmade. These hazards are categorized into natural hazards (such as hurricanes, storm surges, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, drought, disease outbreaks and epidemics, and floods), technological hazards (transportation accidents, structural fires, infrastructural failures, dam failures, and hazardous materials incidents) and terrorist hazards (Bullock, Haddow& Coppola, 2011). Emergency management is considered to be as old as humanity since in the ancient history the early hieroglyphics state that the cave dwellers had devised ways of dealing with threats and also the Bible speaks of various catastrophes that affected civilizations. The US emergency management had undergone numerous changes that have been influenced by the occurrence of several disasters that include the acts of terrorism of September 11, 2001, and the Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Disaster management procedure comprises of four main phases namely mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery (Cao, Zhu, Han& Zhu, 2017). Mitigation phase or prevention stage entails of appropriate strategies performed to anticipate the occurrence of other possible disasters, eliminate the possibility of specific unforeseen events, minimize the impact of imminent disasters, and to reduce their possible adverse impact.Preparedness phase takes place before a catastrophe occurs and involve all the necessary measures undertaken to establish as well as enhance the disaster response and operation capability against latent unforeseen crisis events. The response is the stage that carried out during the crisis in which appropriate emergency actions and rescue operations are done to rescue victims and also minimize/prevent property loss. The recovery phase is the necessary strategies undertaken after the occurrence of a crisis to recover life support system and infrastructure system, which may include the initiation of recovery plans, conducting disaster management and evaluation, and giving post-disaster relief.

One of the state agencies that is widely involved in emergency management operations in the US is the FEMA. The FEMA was merged with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003 but still holds the powers to report directly to the president. FEMA carries two main functions namely 1) commanding and supporting the US to deal with different catastrophic events that befell it to safeguard specific facilities and minimize casualties and loss of property, and 2) to undertake the entire emergency management procedure. The FEMA defines emergency management as the mitigation, preparation against, dealing with, and recovering from the adverse consequences of disasters through organizational analysis.


The gathering of information about FEMA and its role in emergency management and planning will be done through various approaches. These approaches to research include carrying out web research, using journals, periodicals, and publications, interviewing staff of the emergency agency particularly the planning section, observation. The web research, books, publications, and periodicals will enable the researcher to gather detailed information concerning the topic. The web research will mainly entail visiting the agency’s website. The information gathered through this approach both from paper and electronic sources is reliable and accurate and also provides an extensive database with a vast wealth of information. The use of interview will be used as a direct means of gathering information concerning the information agency. It will entail carrying out a telephone or email interview with a staff of the emergency agency, in which the interviewee will answer the various questions developed by the interviewer. The interviewer will first develop a questionnaire (as summarized in Appendix 4), then contact the interviewee to determine the appropriate mode to administer the questionnaire, whether via telephone or email and then allow the interviewee to answer the questions to the best of their knowledge. The interviewee should be working in the planning department of the emergency management agency. The interview approach will be advantageous because it will not only be economical regarding time and money but also allow the interviewer to gather information to produce detailed, holistic descriptions and discuss processes.


FEMA was determined to play critical roles in the success of the whole-process of disaster management in the US. As shown in Appendix 1 that shows the US Department of Homeland Security organizational Chart, FEMA was incorporated to be part of it. The mission of FEMA in the US is to provide support to Americans and first responders of crisis events thus ensuring that the country coordinates its efforts to establish, sustain and enhance its capability for mitigation, preparation for, safeguarding against, responding to, and recovery from crisis events, including both natural and man-made disasters. FEMA is also responsible for undertaking training programs of professionals and nonprofessionals in preparedness, management and proper response to the disaster. There are five subordinate departments in FEMA namely the Impact Mitigation Sector, Emergency Preparedness Sector, Emergency Response Sector, Post-disaster Recovery Sector, and the Office of Regional Branch Administration. The role of the Office of Regional Branch Administration is to perform administrative functions in the ten regional branches of the FEMA, whose role is coordination and cooperation with the local emergency agencies. The Appendix 2 and 3 show the hierarchical organization chart of FEMA as shown on its website www.fema.gov.

Although FEMA was officially established in 1979, its origin goes back to the passing of the Congressional Act of 1803, which was the first crisis legislation to be ever enacted. After the occurrence of a massive fire in New Hampshire town, the Congressional Act played a critical role in offering aid. Various changes were made to the ad hoc legislation in the following years in response to the various hazards that befell the nation including hurricanes and earthquakes. These changes include the passing of the 1965 Flood Control Act that allowed the US Army Corps of Engineers to undertake measures that would control floods, 1968 National Flood Insurance legislation, and the 1973 Flood Disaster Protection Act that made it compulsory to have flood insurance for residents in Special Flood prone regions. The Disaster Relief Act enacted on 1974 by the then president of the US, President Nixon in which it created the procedure of presidential disaster declarations and FEMA became the main recovery agency. In 1978, the hazard that took place at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Company in Pennsylvania led to criticism of the role of the federal government in crisis response as well as the inadequate off-site preparedness around nuclear power plants. On March 31, 1979, FEMA was created by an executive order 12127, after the Congress agreed with the Reorganization Plan Number 3 in which several agencies were transferred to FEMA (Haddow, Bullock& Coppola, 2017). The government organizations that were absorbed include the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, the Federal Insurance Administration, the National Fire Prevention Control Administration, and the Federal Preparedness Agency of GSA.

The next major changes occurred after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, after which President Bush through an order established the Homeland Security Office in the executive branch of the government. In March 2003, FEMA became part of the DHS joining 22 other federal agencies, offices and programs. On June 13, 2005, a six-point agenda was released to guide the reorganization of the department. The changes that were implemented were the increase overall preparedness, especially for catastrophic events, increase information sharing with partners, provide better transportation security systems for people and goods, improve border security, enhance financial management, development of human resource, procurement and IT in the department, and reorganization of the structure of the department to achieve optimum mission performance. On August 29, 2005, the response of FEMA was again under criticism following the Hurricane Katrina that befell the Gulf Coasts of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi causing severe destruction. Consequently, the US Congress passed legislation that amended federal emergency management policies in which the president was vested with more power, FEMA was rearranged and there were enhanced mission, responsibilities, and authorities of both the FEMA and the DHS. There were six public laws are the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act passed (PKEMRA), the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards legislation, the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act, and lastly the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act. The PKEMRA is a crucial law in the functioning of FEMA today, as it requires the DHS to consolidate all the emergency management responsibilities into the agency, safeguards the assets of FEMA from reassignment within DHS, gives the agency improved organizational autonomy and elevates its status within DHS.

National Incident Management System (NIMS)

FEMA employs the NIMS in executing its functions. NIMS is defined as the fundamental set of principles, concepts, doctrine, terminology, and processes of the agency that enable all the emergency management and incident response organizations to work together in incident management in an effective, efficient and collaborative manner. The first federal publication of the NIMS was published by the DHS on March 1, 2004. A new, revised NIMS system was released in December 2008, in which it offers a consistent national template to allow all agencies (including all authorities; NGOs, and the private sector) to coordinate its efforts in the prevention, protection, against, response, recovery from, and mitigation of the effects of the declared hazards. NIMS also facilitate the establishment of high-tech systems that provide emergency management and disaster response operations and enable the introduction of new strategies that allow non-stop refinement of the system. NIMS comprise of five subsections namely 1) resource management, 2) communication and information management, 3) preparedness, 4) command and management and 5) continuous management and maintenance (Walsh, Lord, & Miller 2011).

The Incident Command System (ICS)

The ICS, which was formed in the 1970s, refers a standardized emergency management tool for attaining the necessities of small or big emergency or nonemergency circumstances. It is a very crucial feature of the NIMS. The ICS is made up of several features namely standardization, planning/organizational structure, command, information management, facilities and resources, professionalism, transfer of command, and modular organization. The incident commander may establish four sections as shown in the figure below namely the planning section, operations section, logistics section, and administration section. The ICS is a crucial component across multi-jurisdictional or multi-agency incident management activities as it offers a structure to allow the different agencies with various jurisdictional, legal and functional roles to plan and work together effectively on a situation.

Figure 1: Incident Command System (FEMA, 2017)

The Planning Section of FEMA

The roles of the planning section are the gathering, assessment and dissemination of incident information and intelligence for the Unified Command and staff of incident management, preparation and recording of incident action plans, monitoring the use of resources in an incident, prepares status reports, and also establishing plans for demobilization. The inclusion of communications in all FEMA planning and operations is a crucial element of leadership’s commitment to effective communication. The primary units responsible for undertaking the functional requirements of the planning section are the demobilization unit, resources unit, documentation unit, situation unit, and technical specialists.

FEMA has anticipated emergencies that law enforcement agencies will be responsible for as well as their actions during a crisis. The law enforcement is responsible for giving direct assistance to local law enforcement to prevent the adverse impacts of an escalated hazard, a civil conflict, or any other crisis and may be needed to provide support to quarantine measures when necessary. The law enforcement can provide mutual aid response coordination as well as administrative interaction thus providing security to critical infrastructure during prevention stage or emergency response and also by assisting other departments and agencies with their general and specialized resources during a crisis. The law enforcement is also responsible for maintaining the law enforcement mutual aid system through coordination of planning and operations between the primary and the support agencies.


FEMA is one of the core US federal emergency management agencies involved in mitigation/prevention, preparedness, response as well as recovery measures through offering programs such as review and coordination of State emergency plans, financial assistance, training programs and so on. The continuous review and changes implemented to FEMA regarding its organizational structure and policies since its inception have been a positive aspect in assisting to develop robust emergency plans, structure, and systems. FEMA has effectively been able to coordinate emergency management plans for various federal, state and local responders thus achieving its mission of saving lives and protecting property. The role of FEMA in emergency planning, management and response can improve if the agency expanded its focus to include social-economic recovery. Also, the federal government can ensure that the performance of FEMA is optimum through giving priority to its top leadership.


Bullock, J., Haddow, G., & Coppola, D. P. (2011). Introduction to homeland security: Principles of all-hazards risk management. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Cao, J., Zhu, L., Han, H., & Zhu, X. (2017). Modern Emergency Management.Springer

FEMA (2017). FEMA. Web. Retrieved on Nov 27th, 2017 from https://www.fema.gov

Haddow, G., Bullock, J., & Coppola, D. P. (2017). Introduction to emergency management. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Walsh, D., Lord, G., & Miller, G. (2011). National incident management system: Principles and practice. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.


Appendix 1: US Department of Homeland Security Organizational Chart

Appendix 2: FEMA Organizational Chart

Appendix 3: Current Organizational Structure of FEMA

Appendix 4: Questionnaire

The questionnaire provided in this section is part of research on the emergency management and procedures of your organization. Please, take a few minutes to provide information on the questions below. The information provided in this questionnaire is confidential and shall only be used in the research.

Which agency do you work for?

For how long have you been an employee of the agency?

What is the role of the agency in emergency planning and management?

Describe briefly the organizational emergency management processes and their pros and cons?

Has the agency developed effective emergency plans and have they excelled in the implementation of the plans?

Has the organization anticipated which emergencies the law enforcement agencies will be responsible for and which other federal and state agencies have they coordinated their efforts?

What can the agency do to improve its emergency planning, management and response to a widespread crisis in the country?

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