The Role of Emergency Management

The United States experiences a variety of natural and sometimes manmade disasters throughout a given year. Because of hurricanes on the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico coasts, earthquakes near the San Andreas and other fault lines, tornadoes in the plains and Southeast, and floods throughout the Midwest, the United States suffers billions of dollars in losses annually. Regardless of the location of a natural disaster in the United States, a program of disaster preparedness, mitigation, management, and prevention is in place to plan for and recover from these disasters.

Disaster preparedness includes all of the activities that are carried out prior to the advance notice of a catastrophe in order to facilitate the use of available resources, relief, and rehabilitation in the best possible fashion. Disaster preparedness starts at the local community level; if local resources were insufficient, it would branch out to the national level, and if needed, the international level.

Every state in America has an emergency management office, department or agency. While emergency management is considered to be a chiefly local responsibility, all levels of government can coordinate how they handle preparedness, response and recovery to meet the challenges of modern day natural and manmade disasters.

The field of emergency management is not new. Throughout recorded history, there have always been catastrophic disasters and people have responded to these events. Many times, the response was not successful because in earlier times, communities did not have the proper knowledge, equipment and training. Modern emergency management actually began in the 19th century with efforts to address the growing threats of fire and disease in large cities and towns. It is a discipline that has been shaped from over 200 years of American responses to disasters, wars and other catastrophes.

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