Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science
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Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science

Brenda D. Phillips, David M. Neal, Gary R. Webb

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eBook - ePub

Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science

Brenda D. Phillips, David M. Neal, Gary R. Webb

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About This Book

A definitive resource, the Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science presents the essentials to better understand and manage disasters. The third edition of this popular text has been revised and updated to provide a substantively enriched and evidence-based guide for students and emerging professionals. The new emphasis on disaster science places it at the forefront of a rapidly evolving field. This third edition offers important updates, including:

  • Newly commissioned insights from former students and professional colleagues involved with emergency management practice and disaster science; international policies, programs, and practices; and socially vulnerable populations.
  • Significantly enriched content and coverage of new disasters and recent research, particularly the worldwide implications of climate change and pandemics.
  • Pedagogical features like chapter objectives, key terms and definitions, discussion points and resources.
  • The only textbook authored by three winners of the Blanchard Award for excellence in emergency management instruction.

The Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science is a must-have textbook for graduate and undergraduate students and is also an excellent source of information for researchers and professionals.

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PART 1 The Disciplines of Emergency Management and Disaster Science

CHAPTER 1 History and Current Status of Emergency Management and Disaster Science

DOI: 10.4324/9781003021919-2
Chapter Objectives
Upon completing this chapter, readers should be able to:
  • Describe the development of Civil Defense and Emergency Management (EM) in the U.S.
  • Discuss the central role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the U.S. since 1979.
  • Review the origins and roles of the Department of Homeland Security in U.S. emergency management (EM) since 2004.
  • Give examples of how EM functions in other countries.
  • Explain the value and role of disaster science for the practice of EM role of disaster science for the practice of EM.
  • Show how using disaster science enhances EM.

Key Terms

  • Civil Defense
  • Cold War
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Disaster Research
  • Disaster Science
  • Dual Disaster Track
  • Emergency Management
  • Emergency Manager
  • Emergency Support Function
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Federal Response Plan
  • National Response Framework

1.1 Introduction

Catastrophic hurricanes and cyclones. Destructive tornadoes. Deadly pandemics. Extensive flooding. Choking droughts. Massive wildfires. Extreme worldwide temperatures. Cyberattacks. Near miss asteroids. Cross-national protests. Contagious, deadly pandemics. Devastating earthquakes. Invading killer hornets. Potentially devastating space weather. Are these events potential plot lines for new movies? Perhaps, because these and other events are occurring now, and we will see more in the future. If you like excitement and new challenges, the profession of emergency management (EM) and studying how people behave in such events may suit you.
Dealing with disasters is not new. Disaster science pioneer Russell Dynes (2003) observed that Noah was the first emergency manager, and he faced the same problems and issues that emergency managers face today. Although Noah received news about a major flood from an impeccable source, only a few heeded Noah’s warning and helped him to prepare. Today, we face similar and perhaps more problems than Noah. People continue to live in disaster-prone areas (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes) and often do not or cannot take steps that lessen the impact of such events. Indeed, annual deaths and economic losses from disasters continue to increase worldwide. Emergency managers work to address such losses, enhance life safety, protect property, and make jurisdictions, homes, and workplaces safer places (Waugh 2000).
Professional EM presents many challenges, but through careful study in its related discipline of disaster science, you can make a difference. To assist emergency managers, a long line of research on disasters provides insights for emergency managers to make informed decisions before, during, and after events. The science of disasters (i.e., research on how people and organizations behave) serves as a basis for this textbook. To start you on a journey toward becoming an emergency manager, this chapter describes how the field has evolved in the U.S. and worldwide.

1.1.1 Emergency Management

More than 60 years ago, the field of EM was known as civil defense. Typically, people held part-time positions in local government, often focused on nuclear disasters (including war) and to a lesser extent on other disasters (e.g., tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and explosions). Since then, the profession has expanded among local, state, and federal governments, and also in the private, volunteer, and international relief sectors. Emergency managers now prepare for, respond to, recover from, and reduce risks to (mitigate) a wide range of events, including floods, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, explosions, hazardous waste accidents or sites, and terrorist attacks. In addition, emergency managers assist with newer types of threats such as cyberattacks, pandemics, and climate change. For those who like the unknown and the challenging, and who want to make a difference with their lives, EM offers a promising and meaningful career path. Your journey begins with acquiring an understanding of what emergency managers face in today’s work and into the future.

1.1.2 Current and Future Challenges

Nearly 30 years ago, disaster researcher E.L. Quarantelli (1991) warned that the world would face more disasters, larger disasters, and new and different types of disasters. His predictions have come true. First, we have created new technologies with unknown consequences. For example, while rapidly evolving computers and the internet connect us, such technologies have vulnerabilities. Cyberterrorism provides one example, which can shut down health care or government, disrupt elections, stop gasoline pipeline delivery, or damage electrical grids used to power hospitals, businesses, and medical devices. Space weather has also emerged as a new hazard which, under the right conditions, could disrupt navigational systems, cell phone functioning, and the electrical grid.
Second, social scientists have continued to find that human behavior continues to transform hazards into disasters (Quarantelli 1991; Mileti 1999). For example, people build along coastal areas or waterways, which are prone to hurricanes and floods. Or, people live and work close to hazards, which may include chemical facilities or transportation arteries where major accidents occur. Further, as uninhabited places become more densely populated, risks increase. A rural cornfield in Iowa could devastate a farmer’s planting, but without loss of life. Yet, a subdivision built in “tornado alley” becomes a potential tragedy. The popular Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas in the U.S. have seen increased density too, including residents, “snowbirds,” and tourists. Hurricanes, increased flooding from climate change, and electrical grid disruptions means more people may be affected in those areas. Clearly, people serve as an active human agent in transforming a hazard into a disaster, because a hazard alone cannot become a disaster without people to transform its potential or to bear the consequences (Mileti 1999).
Worldwide, disaster impacts have increased. From 2000 to 2020, the UN documented 7,348 major disaster events that caused 1,230,000 deaths and affected 4,200,000,000 people. Asian nations, including India, the Philippines, and Indonesia, ranked among the top ten affected (Reuters 2020). The year 2020 is especially noteworthy of large-scale events. In just that year, record-breaking wildfires (especially the western regions), multiple tropical storms, and hurricanes plagued the U.S. Some events, such as Category 5 Hurricane Iota (the strongest category), created close to catastrophic conditions in Central America (NOAA 2020). In Africa, record-breaking rains created massive floods, which have destroyed crops (leading to famine) and killed hundreds (Smith 2020). During 2020 in East Central Africa, some countries confronted simultaneously extreme rain, mudslides, flooding, locusts, and COVID-19 which collectively caused massive evacuations, population displacements, severe illness, and significant loss of life (McCoy 2020).
Occasionally, catastrophic events occur, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the large numbers of people that acquired the disease, suffered, and died from it, mitigation efforts to curtail the pandemic changed daily activities and undermined economies. Restaurants, museums, sporting venues, movie theaters, and malls all closed for weeks to months with considerable loss of revenue. Schools and universities ended semesters early and hedged their bets by moving classes online. As the virus surged in devastating waves, hospitals became overwhelmed with patients. Countries created travel bans to reduce high infection and death rates. Between March and December 2020, over 60,258,185 people had the virus, with 1,418,614 dying worldwide (COVID Dashboard 2020; DHS 2020). In the U.S., millions caught the virus with 700,000+ dead as this book went to press. Furthermore, research shows that about 10% of those with the virus became “long haulers.” These individuals will suffer from lasting effects from the virus, including coughing, fatigue, body aches, joint pain, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, insomnia, headaches, heart issues, or brain fog (UC Davis Health 2020).
What do emergency managers do about such challenges? The remainder of this chapter looks at how the profession has developed, especially as it has responded to major challenges like terror attacks and other major disasters. The challenge before us is to remain mindful of Quarantelli’s prediction and to always be looking ahead to what we may have not expected.

1.2 The Evolution of Emergency Management in the U.S.

Almost 70 years ago, the profession of EM did not exist. Within the U.S., for example, disaster offices were scattered across units that dealt with nuclear war, floods, hurricanes, and similar hazards. Local governments had offices of civil defense to help protect the nation against a possible nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. Typically, civil defense positions were part time, low paying, and required little if any training or education. The Red Cross and Salvation Army were the most common volunteer organizations available to assist disaster victims. Businesses typically did not have disaster planners. Only a few organizations throughout the world provided international disaster relief. No universities offered a major or minor in EM, nor were any individual courses available. A lot has changed since then.
EM has slowly risen to become a full-fledged profession. Today, those in the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), coordinate most of our national disaster efforts. All states and most local governments have emergency managers and agencies. Major businesses hire individuals to manage risks and conduct disaster planning. A large number of volunteer organizations assist survivors. Worldwide, a wide range of organizations offer disaster relief within and across national borders. Many professionals in the field today have earned college degrees, and about 150 universities in the U.S. alone offer bachelor, master, or doctoral degrees in EM. This section provides an overview of this extraordinary growth and describes some of the key organizations today that play major roles in EM. Four phases generally characterize growth in the field: (1) the era of civil defense, (2) the professionalization of EM, (3) the evolution of homeland security, and (4) the emergence of higher education (Webb 2016).

1.2.1 The Era of Civil Defense

Throughout much of the last century, the federal government coordinated the protection of U.S. citizens from foreign attack through the idea of civil defense. For example, during World War II, civil defense authorities trained civilians to spot enemy aircraft, ships, and submarines. Cities practiced evening blackouts, turning out lights so that enemy bombers could not find their targets. Civil defense became even more prominent in the early 1950s with the arrival of the Cold War when the (former) Soviet Union and the U.S. became bitter ideological enemies. With each having nuclear weapons, attention turned to the possibility of devastating war. During the Cold War, the U.S. created various offices of civil defense (i.e., Federal Civil Defense Agency 1953–1958; Office of Civil Defense Mobilization 1958–1961; and the Office of Civil Defense 1968–1979) to lead and coordinate efforts. Well-known activities supported by Civil Defense included “duck and cover” protective actions and encouraging citizens to build nuclear bomb shelters in their homes. In addition, some public buildings were designated as “Civil Defense Shelters” where those under attack would take protective action (Sylves 2008; FEMA Task Force 2010). Today, you can still find historic Civil Defense Shelter Signs on public buildings.
Major events began to transform the field from civil defense to EM. In 1950, following severe flooding in the upper Midwest, Congress passed the Disaster Relief Act. This legislation allowed the federal government and the President to become involved in future disaster relief efforts without additional congressional approval. Although the Disaster Relief Act provided only a narrow scope of disaster assistance, it created a foundation for Congress to later expand the role of the federal government in disaster (Kreps 1990; Sylves 2008). Subsequent large disasters (e.g., Hurricane Camille, 1969; San Fernando Earthquake, 1971; Hurricane Agnes, 1972) broadened the federal government’s role during disaster and increased the number of responding voluntary organizations (Kreps 1990). The Disaster Relief Act of 1974 and the Stafford Act o...

Table of contents

  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Dedication
  6. Contents
  7. Detailed Contents
  8. List of Boxes and Figures
  9. About the Authors
  10. Preface
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Part 1 The Disciplines of Emergency Management and Disaster Science
  13. Part 2 Comprehensive Emergency Management
  14. Part 3 Working and Volunteering in Emergency Management
  15. Index
Citation styles for Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science

APA 6 Citation

Phillips, B., Neal, D., & Webb, G. (2021). Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science (3rd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2021)

Chicago Citation

Phillips, Brenda, David Neal, and Gary Webb. (2021) 2021. Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis.

Harvard Citation

Phillips, B., Neal, D. and Webb, G. (2021) Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science. 3rd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Phillips, Brenda, David Neal, and Gary Webb. Introduction to Emergency Management and Disaster Science. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.