The First Disaster Legislation
As a formal responsibility of government in the United States, what we now call emergency management began with efforts to address growing threats of fire and disease in large cities and towns in the 19th century. Government Services were limited to minimal social services, churches, and other non-governmental services. In 1803, American responses to a disaster took a significant turn, beginning a pattern of federal involvement that continues to this day. When an extensive fire swept through Portsmouth, New Hampshire, community and state resources were overwhelmed by the response and recovery effort. Congress responded with the first legislative action making federal resources available to assist state and local governments. This Congressional Act of 1803 is commonly regarded as the first piece of national disaster legislation.
FEMA, The Stafford Act, and Other More Recent Developments
The Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988 instituted an orderly and continuing means of assistance by the Federal Government to State and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to aid citizens when natural disasters overwhelm them. The Act created the system in place today by which a Presidential Disaster Declaration of an emergency triggers financial and physical assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Act gave FEMA the responsibility for coordinating government wide relief efforts. The Federal Response Plan it implements includes the contributions of 28 federal agencies and non governmental organizations, such as the American Red Cross.
Congressional recognition that some disasters overwhelmed the resources of state and local governments was longstanding. The stafford act built upon earlier enactments, such as the federal disaster relief act of 1950, the national flood insurance program of 1961, and the federal fire prevention and control act of 1974. However, by the 1970â€™s, federal disaster programs had been diffused among over 100 agencies and some of their efforts duplicated those offered at the state and local level. To make the federal governmentâ€™s disaster programs more efficient and able to respond more quickly, president Jimmy Carter created the Federal Emergency Management Agency by Executive Order in 1979.
Senator Robert Stafford, R VT, the chief sponsor of the Disaster Relief and Emergency Act, was not satisfied with the federal response when disasters did occur, and felt that special measures were necessary to expedite aid and emergency services, and to provide important reconstruction and rehabilitation services to devastated areas. He and his allies advocated a revision and broadening of the scope of existing disaster relief programs.
First, they expanded the mission of FEMA, as well as its resources, arguing that the impact of disasters was so severe – loss of life, human suffering, loss of income, property loss and damage, disruption of local government and community services that disaster preparation and avoidance were as important as was the emergency assistance offered in the aftermath of devastation.
The Stafford Act gave FEMA the responsibility to establish a hazard mitigation and alleviation program that encouraged prevention measures to reduce losses from disasters, including development of land use and construction regulations. It also established an education program to encourage individuals and communities to protect themselves by obtaining insurance coverage to supplement governmental assistance.
Second, Stafford and his allies saw the need for long term planning. The Stafford Act charged FEMA with developing comprehensive disaster preparedness and assistance plans, programs, capabilities, and organizations in conjunction with the States and local governments. FEMA was further given the responsibility of achieving greater coordination and responsiveness of disaster preparedness and relief programs among the various federal agencies involved in the aftermath of a disaster and the contributions of non governmental organizations, such as the American Red Cross.
In the world today, disasters are no longer only the result of natural phenomena such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and wild fires. Some are now inflicted by man, such as acts of terrorism. In recognition of this new reality, FEMA became part of the new Department of Homeland Security in March, 2003. Its mandate continues to grow, as has been true since its creation in 1979.
Michigan Emergency Management Act 390 of 1976
â€œAn act to provide for planning, mitigation, response, and recovery from natural and human-made disaster within this state; to create the Michigan emergency management advisory council and prescribe its powers and duties; to prescribe the powers and duties of certain state and local agencies and officials; to prescribe immunities and liabilities; to provide for the acceptance of gifts; to repeal certain acts and parts of acts; and to repeal certain parts of the act.â€
The National Incident Management System (NIMS)
NIMS is a system mandated by Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 5 that provides a consistent nationwide approach for federal, state, local and tribal governments; the private-sector and nongovernmental organizations to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size or complexity. To provide for interoperability and compatibility among federal, state, local and tribal capabilities, the NIMS includes a core set of concepts, principles, and terminology. HSPD-5 identifies these as the ICS; multiagency coordination systems; training; identification and management of resources (including systems for classifying types of resources); qualification and certification; and the collection, tracking, and reporting of incident information and incident resources.
The Emergency Operations Center
The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is activated during an emergency that has overwhelmed the normal day to day functions of the first responders. When activated, the city management team assembles to coordinate the appropriate response to the situation by applying city resources. The EOC has the capability to communicate with local, state and federal agencies by various means. The EOC has the ability to operate during a power failure with the use of a generator to power the building.
||What functions does the EOC perform?
- Information Collection
- Information Processing
- Information Display
- Information Dissemination
- Command and Control of assigned resources
What is found in a typical EOC?
- Communications links (telephone, cellular/PCS, 2-way radio, patching equipment)
- Computer equipment with appropriate network connections
- Map displays to show geographic attributes
- Dynamic data (status boards) on the unfolding situation
- Static reference data
- Response plans, emergency operation plans, etc.
Who staffs the EOC?
- Local Government reps
- Law enforcement reps
- Fire/rescue reps
- Public Works reps
- EMS/Medical/Public Health reps
- Public information people
- Volunteer Organization’s reps
- Communications and IT technical support personnel
- Others, depending on type and size of incident