By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
On Saturday, June 24, a massive landslide buried the village of Xinmo in Sichuan Province, China. By Monday afternoon, 93 individuals remained missing, along with 10 confirmed dead. The Chinese government responders to help manage the disaster and look for victims of the landslide.
How China handled this disaster will likely provide some excellent lessons for other emergency management professionals and academics. The Chinese only recently adopted a disaster management model for handling major emergencies.
Furthermore, the Chinese model might provide insights into what U.S. emergency management organizations can do better and how we might improve our first responder processes. More importantly, perhaps we can better understand how community resiliency and other emergency management efforts might work best for certain communities. These efforts develop differently, based on their location.
The Chinese Government Model
Prior to 2005, the Chinese government operated emergency management efforts very differently from how they manage disasters today. Since then, the Chinese government has had an emergency management model similar to the model of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Chinese emergency management model includes six main contingency plans, which is far different from the an all-hazards approach of the U.S. plan.
Community resiliency in emergency management efforts is an important concept in the United States. It includes the idea that emergency management efforts are easier when assistance networks are already in place.
For example, in some U.S. communities, area churches might be the leading network that brings people together. In other communities, the YMCA is more of an aligning force.
The networks that are prevalent in the United States may not have the same relevance in China because different cultures have different standards.
For example, a tremendous amount of research has gone into understanding comparative politics and how governments are formed based on the needs of a society. Community resiliency may be very different in China because of numerous influential factors.
Future Emergency Management Insights and Lessons
Some of the most important lessons about emergency management emerge after a major disaster. Emergency management professionals and academics try to assess how the disaster could have been handled better. These assessments produce new systems and concepts that can be applied to emergency management in the future.
Management of Chinese Landslide Will Provide Insights into Community Resilience
From a sociological standpoint, the landslide in China and how it was managed will give us insights into community resilience. It will help us determine whether the management was a vibrant part of universal emergency management or if its handling was best based on the community it serves.
Will networks emerge to help manage the disaster or in the rebuilding process? Will existing networks serve as a means for helping Xinmo rebuild? Taking a look at these important aspects of the Xinmo disaster and the greater Chinese community will help us to better understand if community resiliency is a vibrant component of universal emergency management or if it is isolated to only some communities.