By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
William Waugh and Gregory Streib, two scholars of public administration, once wrote that collaboration was one of the most important components of leadership in effective emergency management. Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coastline this past Friday, bringing with it a tremendous amount of destruction as a category 4 hurricane. Since then, the floodwaters have continued to rise in Houston and thousands of people have needed emergency assistance or rescue. The initial hit of the storm hasn’t ended yet for recovery efforts to really begin.
In disaster scenarios like this, Americans often look to one person for answers as to how the government is responding. These individuals are often those in public office: a city mayor, the state’s governor, and, of course, the President of the United States. People often feel that these individuals are responsible for recovery efforts. These individuals are absolutely part of the recovery efforts; however, there are numerous other agencies, non-profit organizations and personnel that come together to manage such a massive catastrophe. Emergency management takes a lot of collaboration and communication at all levels of government to manage such massive disastrous events like Harvey.
Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey
As Harvey and the overall disaster event continues, there will undoubtedly be numerous comparisons made between Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina. While there are similarities between the two, they were distinctly different storms in that each was formed differently, each hit different places in the United States and, and each were managed with a different emergency management infrastructure. Where Hurricane Katrina clearly had problems of communication and coordination, Hurricane Harvey has been handled better so far, as it is clear just how many agencies and non-profit organizations have mobilized to make sure that the event is handled accordingly.
As the disaster continues to unfold, it will become more and more clear which agencies, emergency support functions and non-profit organizations will come together to manage the disaster. The United States Government, for example, posted a website with general emergency information for citizens impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Further, FEMA listed agencies and organizations coming together to manage the disaster. Bringing these organizations together will provide enough resources to move the disaster from an initial response to a recovery phase.
Hurricane Harvey is proving to be a devastating storm that will require one of the largest recovery efforts in U.S. history – once the initial response phase has been completed. While all storms are different, it is clear that there were numerous lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina that have led to a strong interagency collaboration of managing this disaster.