1. Assisting local government whose capabilities become overwhelmed by the emergency
2. Responding themselves to specific emergencies
3. Working with the federal government when required
The state's emergency plan becomes the framework in which local government plans are created and executed, and through which the federal government becomes involved. The state's emergency plan mobilizes all levels of local government as a unified emergency organization and response to embrace the safety of all citizens within the state.
Communities expect the elected officials and city government to conduct a timely and effective response protecting life and property, when disasters threaten or strike local government. City government is expected to maximize effective use of all available internal resources, and if necessary to obtain mutual aid from the appropriate external sources. Normally this process, undertaken by local government, is given force by statute or ordinance. Congress also recognizes state and local emergency management in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act as amended:
"It is the intent of Congress, by this Act, to provide an orderly and continuing means of assistance by the Federal Government to State and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to alleviate the suffering and damage which results from ['] disasters" (Sec. 101(b), emphasis added).
"The purpose of this title is ['] to vest responsibility for emergency preparedness jointly in the Federal Government and the several States and their political subdivisions" (Sec. 601).
Local government's elected officials become legally responsible for ensuring that the appropriate and necessary responses are taken to protect life and property from the resulting consequences of emergencies. However, the reality of this actual responsibility extends beyond elected officials and into the communities they represent and serve. This extension of responsibility results in an essential alliance between the elected officials, including city government, and the community; preparedness is the responsibility of every member of the community in partnership with each other.
Local governments can effectively develop and implement their emergency management programs by focusing on four interrelated emergency planning components as described below:
1. Preparedness - methods used to create an awareness of natural and manmade threats and the countermeasures to address them, prior to an emergency
2. Mitigation - process involving lasting and often permanent actions in the reduction of the exposure to, probability of, or loss from emergencies
3. Response - time sensitive actions to save life and property, while stabilizing the emergency to allow for transition to the recovery phase
4. Recovery - effort to restore the infrastructure, and the social and economic activity of a community to normal, initially focusing on essential services and eventually on long-term mitigation needs
A systematic approach for local government is to treat each component as one phase of the emergency management process, with each phase building on the preceding one. The ultimate goal is to maximize necessary internal and external resources, while minimizing the impact caused by the emergency, enabling the jurisdiction to a speedy return to normal life
Emergency management at the local level is often times an after thought, and at the very best an out-dated plan sitting on an obscure shelf assigned to a city employee as a secondary responsibility to perform, if time permits. In simple language, emergency management has not been a high priority for a majority of local governments, even those jurisdictions residing in geographical areas that pose significant risk of natural or man-made hazards. It is time for local governments to wake up and address a billion-dollar industry-disasters, through a political and operational commitment to an on-going and functional emergency management program.
Like many cities in the United States exposed to natural or man-made hazards, the cities of the San Francisco Bay Area are no different. Numerous cities are located along the Hayward fault which parallels San Francisco's East Bay; a fault with over one million people living within one mile of its sixty mile length and considered by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as the fault posing the highest earthquake threat in California. In fact the USGS published a report in 1990 that gives the Hayward fault a better than 50 percent chance of a significant rupture in the next thirty years. If this is not enough, even after the great 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, how many cities in the affected region have exercised due diligence and developed and implemented an on-going emergency management program? Cities that remain without an emergency management program may have resulted from the opinion that:
1. the fire and police departments unilaterally will successfully manage the disaster;
2. the state and federal agencies will manage the disaster and provide resources and funding;
3. the city budget must fund essential services, not programs addressing events that may or may not occur;
4. the disaster won't happen while I'm in office; I'll be retired by the time a disaster strikes.
It appears that many local jurisdictions have either no functional emergency management program or a "paper" program with no operational capability. Cities that choose not to engage in an emergency management program are often a product of "apathy". Disasters are "low probability" events and compete with the city's daily priorities and shrinking resources. Often, it becomes difficult to get the elected officials, city staff, and the general public to actively support emergency management. Frequently local government and the public at large reflect a social reality in respect to the general attitude toward emergency management, characterized by apathy. This general public apathy may be in the form of:
1. Preparedness Awareness or Interest - generally poor and even in communities that experience frequent disasters or significant threat exposure
2. Risk Assessment - usually downplayed, while the public's perception of risk lacks a valid correlation to actual risk
3. Denial or Fatalism - believing "it won't happen here" or accepting "what will be, will be"
In addition to the general public's apathy, local government may decline to develop and maintain an emergency management program unless their constituency demands it, or it is mandated by law and paid for by the state or federal government. Many federal guidelines, policies, and regulations encouraging cities to become disaster resistant communities are not self-implementing or self-funding. Without federal or state funding, local governments may chose not to take general fund money for program development and maintenance. Even when local government adopts specific emergency management ordinances or resolutions, it does not mean that resources and funding will be made available. In addition to the above elements, the following represent additional complacency factors possibly plaguing local government:
1. E/M Advocate - highly organized special interest groups representing businesses, developers, real estate brokers, and builders are a formidable local lobby, while often times emergency management goes underrepresented' no emergency management advocate
2. Defeatism - envisioning a disaster so catastrophic that no resources available would make a difference, which often results in no planning, training, or program
3. Available Resources - programs addressing low-probability events, that may not be realized or activated for years, are competing with the city's traditional programs and events for limited resources, and emergency management loses
4. Program Assessment - determining the actual benefits of an emergency management program are as difficult as assessing the actual threats, and the return on the city's investment in the program often remains unclear
5. Police and Fire Response Syndrome - the notion that the police and fire departments' standard emergency response can be simply extended to successfully address a disaster is an over simplification due to the magnitude and uniqueness of each disaster
6. Emergency Management Responsibilities - often assigned, if at all, as secondary duties to full time or part time employee(s) in a variety of departments with no specific job description creating span of control, motivation, and accountability issues
7. Governmental Quandary - the idea that federal government's experience and exposure to disaster is broad and frequent would indicate primary responder responsibility; while individual local government's exposure is limited and infrequent would suggest emergency management as a low priority for local government, yet cities, closest to the event, are more likely and expected to respond
Although apathy is often a product of organizational culture, there are certain factors, if taken advantage of, that might be an incentive or action to minimize this dilemma:
1. Liability - court decisions indicating that local government may be financially responsible for certain consequences of an emergency as related to the city's response/non-response or inadequate community preparedness
2. Funding - duty of local government to develop and implement emergency planning and programming is becoming more frequent in federal and state legislation, which often is tied to funding eligibility
3. Timing - interest and participation in preparedness, planning, and training is traditionally high following emergencies, even if the disaster has occurred elsewhere
4. Education - should be ongoing, but motivation to learn is most effective during pre-seasonal threats, advance emergency warning, and post disaster periods
Although there are other factors impeding the emergency management process, it appears apathy continues to be a significant element plaguing emergency management programs across the nation at the local level.
The October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake served as a "wakeup" call for the City of San Leandro, a midsize city located in San Francisco's East Bay. Although the city experienced no damage, within months after the earthquake, the governing body, city officials, and concerned citizens formed a Vision Task Force to evaluate the need for a citywide emergency management program. Realizing the Bay Area's significant exposure to natural and manmade disasters and after several months of collaborating, the task force developed a comprehensive emergency management program called the Partnership for Preparedness Program. During the last several years, there have been a variety of notable factors that have significantly contributed to the success of the program; several of these factors are:
1. Culture - the city's elected officials, government officials, and community members have politically, operationally, and individually valued and promoted emergency management to the degree that its awareness and practice has become a part of the daily activities within city hall and normal life in the community. Having an emergency management culture in place prior to a disaster was particularly important when transitioning from normal assigned duties to emergency management duties in the early stages of the city's recent El Ni'o 1998 emergency response to major infrastructure damage.
2. Program Mentor - behind any successful program stands a mentor. The City has been extremely fortunate to have three mentors, the City Council, City Manager, and the Assistant City Manager. The program enjoys essential support from all the Council members and City Manager, as well as being a priority in their vision statement. The Assistant City Manager provides frequent executive level guidance that promotes the program's funding and supports the program agenda across department boundaries requiring active participation at all levels of the organization. The Assistant City Manager meets with the Emergency Services Manager monthly reviewing a comprehensive agenda involving operational strategy, resources, training, and programming.
3. Organization - the Emergency Services Division, a division consisting of two full time employees and volunteers who manage and administer the city's emergency management program. The division is located in the City Manager's Office with the City Manager (Director of Emergency Services) to (1) provide immediate advice and counsel on emergency management issues, (2) receive timely resources and support, and (3) build a relationship of trust and confidence.
4. Positions - the Emergency Services Manager is a full time mid-level management position with respective compensation and benefits. The management position lends importance and credibility to the program, and allows routine advocacy of the program at the management and executive level. It also enhances access and interaction at all levels of city government, the community, and external agencies, as well as creates a career management position to attract the most qualified and competent emergency management professional. The Emergency Services Coordinator is a full time supervisory position with respective compensation and benefits. The supervisory position provides training, guidance, and liaison to city employees, volunteers, community-based organizations, schools, businesses, and civic groups. This supervisory position creates a mid level emergency management career position to attract the most qualified and competent individual. Additionally, every new city employee receives a formal class describing the city's emergency organization, their role as a disaster service worker, and a three-day survival kit to keep in the trunk of their vehicle.
5. Budget - a successful program requires a budget, however slight, for development and maintenance, and the actual cost will depend on the program's scope; a program's budget also lends importance and commitment to the program. The city's emergency management program is an individual division, the Emergency Services Division, located in the City Manager's Office. The division competes every year with all other divisions within different city departments for funding.
6. Response Plan - the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS), resulting from state legislation following the 1991 Oakland Hills fire, mandated state agencies and encouraged local government to use this new system of emergency response. SEMS contains the Incident Command System (ICS), which facilitates the coordination and flow of information and resources at the management level (local government - Emergency Operations Center [EOC]) and command level (field response - Incident Command Post [ICP]) through a modular organization consisting of Management/Command, Operations, Planning/Intelligence, Logistics, and Finance. The city is currently revising the city's disaster plan (renamed SEMS Emergency Plan) and has recently completed part II of the three part plan titled, Management Operation Plan (MOP) which provides an "action check list" for each position within the ICS organization for use in the EOC.
7. Annual Training Plan - a comprehensive fiscal year training plan developed by the Emergency Services Manager involving the city's elected officials and all the members assigned to the emergency organization. The plan involves exercises and formal emergency management classes and workshops taught by the city's Emergency Services Manager, American Red Cross, State Office of Emergency Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and private firms. The City Manager (Director of Emergency Services) approves, publishes, and implements the Emergency Management Annual Training Plan as a directive to ensure maximum participation and avoid individual scheduling conflicts.
8. Disaster Council - established by a City ordinance, this is one of the City Council's seven active committees, which meets quarterly and is open to the general public. The membership includes the Mayor (Chair), Vice Mayor (Vice Chair), at-large Councilmember, City Manager (Director of Emergency Services), Assistant City Manager, City Department Heads (members of City's emergency organization), Economic Development Coordinator, Chief Building Official, and the Emergency Services Manager. The meetings address policy issues impacting the emergency management program, as well as an opportunity for the Section Chief's of the emergency organization to provide section updates, identify future activity, and respond to any questions. Following a Disaster Council meeting, one of the three participating elected officials will report the Information obtained at these meetings to the entire City Council. This committee has become a valuable forum involving the executive leadership of the city to maintain program support, obtain program resources, preserve program awareness, disseminate program information, and provide program accountability.
9. Networking - it is extremely important for city's elected officials and all members of the emergency organization to identify, contact, and maintain personal and professional relationships with individuals and agencies essential to their respective roles as disaster service workers in the emergency organization, and in particularly prior to a disaster. This becomes important both from a political and operational perspective. The Emergency Services Manager must maintain and preserve good working relationships with his counterparts in other political subdivisions, special districts, school districts, businesses, and especially the agencies at the county, state, and federal levels. When resources are scarce and competition for reimbursement dollars is fierce, these established and on-going relationships and liaisons will facilitate the success of the emergency management process during and after a disaster. Personal and professional relationships with state and federal officials prior to El Ni'o 98 became a significant factor in the city's success of being awarded funding for substantial storm related damage
The success of emergency management in the City of San Leandro did not occur over night. The city's success has been the product of numerous elected officials, city officials, and concerned citizens committed to their community in doing the right thing over the last several years, which has been the difference between an ordinary and extra ordinary program. The city's current leadership continues its tradition of embracing the emergency management program as a critical strategy in protecting life and property during and after a disaster, while focusing on long term mitigation efforts to minimize the impact of future disasters.
Emergency management in many communities is but a thought, far short of a priority. As a community's infrastructure becomes more complex and geographic populations shift and grow the potential for disaster becomes more catastrophic. It is time for local government to wake up and provide their communities the type of leadership, commitment, planning, training, and preparedness that will be necessary to survive the natural and manmade hazards that continue to pose daily threats to our communities. Success in this venture will rely on a strong partnership between local government and the community it serves. Working together, a difference can be made'and quite possibly, the difference between life or death.
Dan S. Lunsford, CEM, completed 20 years in law enforcement in California and 28 years in the Marine Corps Reserve assigned to the Marine Forces Pacific Command. He is currently the Emergency Services Manager with the San Leandro Police Department. He has also completed the University of California at Berkeley Certificate Program in Emergency Preparedness Planning and Management.