By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
Disaster movies can be rather fun for many emergency management professionals. I particularly enjoy watching them for how they depict the handling of catastrophes, and the science, (sometimes fictional science), behind what potentially could happen.
However, many disaster movies tend to follow a generalized script, i.e., a scientist has information about the catacalysmic event, and he or she must let everyone know about the event so the general public can work to protect themselves. More importantly, they usually explain that a lot of people will die unless they listen to this specific scientist’s important public announcement.
While movies are entertaining, they are also particularly important because they provide insights into the overall situation of a community or society. What a society finds funny will be reflected in a movie, or their understanding of a particular event. Thus, disaster movies may provide insight into what most civilians understand about emergency management. As most disaster movies depict a scientist that has some groundbreaking information and everyone must listen to him or her, it is important to note that very rarely are emergency management officials part of this equation in a movie. Thus, without their inclusion in the overall plot of a disaster movie, does this mean that the overall public image of emergency managers need improvement?
Emergency management is a relatively new field as it is currently designed for today’s disasters. It has been heavily influenced by important national policies such as the Incident Command System and the National Incident Management System Framework and largely impacted by horrible disaster events like the numerous active shooter scenarios in the United States, Hurricane Katrina and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. These events, in particular, have shaped how emergency management is handled.
For most civilians though, it is difficult to understand the importance of emergency management and the overall collaboration that takes place. These issues are merely touched on in most coverage of disasters. Further, without there being a real need to address these issues in the public school systems, most Americans are completely unaware of emergency management and how crises are handled in the local, state and federal levels of government.
While disaster movies show that there may be large gaps in the knowledge of what civilians understand about emergency management, it should be a sign that emergency management professionals at all levels of the government should work to create educational programs to help educate the populous on what emergency management is, and what emergency managers do. In doing so, it may help the overall knowledge of what to do in a crisis - helping to save lives in catastrophic scenarios.