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Comparing Emergency Management in the US and Australia

Comparing Emergency Management in the US and Australia

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Social scientists are particularly interested in how various countries handle major disasters like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. Not surprisingly, developed countries have created very effective management programs to mitigate emergencies, while many third-world countries have struggled for years to handle natural disasters better.

In March of this year, Australia experienced two severe storms: Tropical Cyclone Trevor and Tropical Cyclone Veronica. In that same month, the African nation of Mozambique was ravaged by Tropical Cyclone Idai – a Category 2 storm. Idai produced significant flooding and damage, and several deaths.

Australia did not suffer the same extent of damage that Mozambique did because it has a well-organized emergence management system. To better understand emergency management policy, we need to understand the overall construction of the administration that oversees it.

Emergency Management Policy Components: Goals and Objectives

Emergency management policies are composed of goals and objectives designed to correct some imbalance or irregularity in a society. These policies need an administration to oversee them and enforce their components.

Without administrations and enforcement, policies might not be implemented or effective. Social scientists pay specific attention to the overall administration of policies because they can provide insights into policy development and execution. Proper administration is a key aspect of successful emergency management.

Condensed Resources Work Better than Separate Entities

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the U.S. government discovered significant gaps in the management of its resources needed for emergencies. As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other governmental bodies instituted administrative changes that condensed resources, so public safety officials and emergency managers could work together and more effectively manage disasters.

Australia and Its Condensed Program

Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has combined first responder and emergency management departments and resources into one administration to handle emergencies. As the website explains, "DFES personnel and volunteers also work closely with other agencies such as Western Australia Police and St John Ambulance, helping to coordinate and carry out search and rescue missions on land and at sea, and assist at road and traffic emergencies.” The DFES also provides advice on emergency management issues to local, state and national stakeholders.

Federalism and Emergency Management in the United States

In the United States, these emergencies would normally be handled by a combination of local, state and federal agencies, depending on their severity. In addition, other agencies might also become involved, such as the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Emergency Support Functions and FEMA’s Mutual Aid Agreements.

U.S. agencies are semi-autonomous and have different mandates, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DHS. Their very different roles during an emergency could potentially complicate the situation.

If resources are dispersed too much, it can be difficult to bring them together during a disaster. While it can be difficult to compare countries based on how they handle emergencies, we know that condensed resources are particularly effective in managing emergencies.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, History, a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard and a Lifeguard Instructor. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and also serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.