Title: Union Research Paper
Emergency management unions are organizations that prepare for and carry out all the emergency functions aimed at mitigation, preparation for, response to, and recovery from disasters caused by different hazards, whether human-, natural or technological-caused. These unions engage four main components in their work: all phases of emergency management, all hazards, all stakeholders, and all impacts.
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The level of success of efforts undertaken by emergency management unions is determined by the extent to which all the four components are engaged in efforts to deal with the emergency (Drabek, 1985). All the hazards present within a specific jurisdiction have to be put into consideration in the risk assessment. This assessment is based on the impact and the possibility of occurrence. A tendency to treat all hazards in the same way ultimately ends up bringing about failure.
According to Waeckerle (1991), the four phases that should be put into consideration for the emergency management unit to be deemed to have succeeded include preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery. Preparedness is about ensuring that all the relevant capabilities and plans have been put in place to ensure an appropriate response to disasters. The response is about immediate reaction once a disaster occurs. Mitigation entails all the activities that are designed to ensure that the amount of loss from the disaster is reduced. The recovery phase entails all the activities that extend beyond the duration of the emergency.
Regarding all impacts, the focus is on the broad spectrum across which emergencies and disasters spread, mainly affecting the economy, human services, and infrastructure. An analysis should be done on all the impacts of all the consequences that can be predicted in relation to the hazards that are likely to occur. The stakeholders that need to be put into consideration for successful intervention to be said to have taken place include government in all its levels, the general public, and the private sector ((McLoughlin, 1985). Therefore, successful efforts by emergency management unions are those in which mechanisms have been put in place for putting into consideration all the impacts, all stakeholders, all phases and all hazards relating to an emergency or disaster, for example, a fire.
Factors determining the success of emergency management unions
The progressiveness of the union’s activities
The emergency managers leading the preparedness efforts at the unions have to anticipate future disasters before taking preparatory and preventive measures (Petak, 1985). This way, they are able to build disaster-resilient and disaster-resistant communities. This preparedness is crucial, particularly in the contemporary world in which disasters are occurring more frequently, more intensely, in a dynamic and complex way. Over recent decades, the number of events that have been federally declared disasters has been rising dramatically.
With the rising number of disasters, monetary losses as a result of disasters have been increasing at a proportionately high rate (Waugh, 2006). However, many communities continue locating their buildings and other crucial infrastructure in a manner that does not put into consideration potential hazards. Such a case of environmental mismanagement shows that the emergency management union operating in the respective jurisdiction has not succeeded in its work. Such unions are deemed to have failed in their duty of developing and implementing sound disaster-prevention measures.
A successful emergency management union must ensure that a lot of attention in the community is directed at undertaking activities relating to prevention and mitigation. Traditionally, the activities of emergency management unions have been focused primarily on the development of emergency response plans as well as coordination of the initial responses once a disaster has hit an area. However, considering the extent to which the risks that communities face have escalated, emergency management institutions are faced with the challenge of becoming more strategic and progressive in their thinking. This progressiveness greatly determines the extent to which they succeed in having their way once a disaster occurs.
The unions have to be positioned in such a way that they understand the assessment of hazards in order to reduce vulnerability. They must also seek the support of different public officials and support the enactment of laws that help reduce vulnerability. In these efforts, there is a need to collaborate with experts and organizations in the private, public, and non-public sectors. Such collaborative efforts go a long way in promoting disaster preparedness and prevention.
Presence of risk management principles
Successful emergency management unions are those that utilize proper risk management principles, which include identification of hazards, analysis of risk, and impact analysis. This analysis enables the managers to determine how they will assign priorities and the resources required. The available resources should be used effectively in order for the risk to be managed most effectively. In this regard, there is need for a policy on various priorities and ways of assessing the risks posed to people’s lives, environment as well as property. Once hazards have been identified, they have to be monitored and the likelihood of their occurrence determined. Then, the vulnerability of the communities is put into consideration.
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Across the United States, different communities are faced with completely different risks. Emergency management unions have a responsibility to address all the risks that are found in their areas of jurisdiction. In this consideration, the different aspects of preparedness that should be put into consideration include human resource management, training, public education, and all related efforts, all of which should be focused on areas where the greatest risks are posed. Without such risk assessment and preparedness efforts, an emergency management union may not succeed in having its way in the event that an emergency or disaster occurs. It would be impossible to mobilize all the resources needed for a timely response to the disaster or emergency.
Integration is a key attribute that sets successful emergency management unions apart from the rest of the institutions that participate in the management of disasters and emergencies. Successful emergency managers must have a unity of purpose and efforts, and this should be reflected in their engagement with stakeholders, particularly all levels of government as well as the affected communities.
During the 1980s, emergency management unions across the US adopted a new approach known as the Integrated Emergency Management System (IEMS) (Platt, 1991). IEMS is an all-hazards strategy for directing, controlling, and coordinating all disasters regardless of their size, location, and complexity. In IEMS, partnerships are integrated, whereby all stakeholders within the affected communities are given a chance to participate in the decision-making process. In this way, IEMS has facilitated the establishment of an organization that enables the unions to achieve a unity of purpose and effort between key community partners, government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations.
For the unity of effort to be achieved, there is a need for integration to existing both vertically and horizontally. In vertical integration, emergency programs initiated by a union at the local level have to be integrated with all the other activities spearheaded by the government. For instance, there is a need for department emergency plans to be in synchrony with the plans that have been put in place for emergency operations within the community. Moreover, the community’s vision should be put into consideration by the unions in all their dealings with key stakeholders such as various levels of government.
Moreover, the private sector should be encouraged to step in and contribute to continuity plans. This would be a welcome proposal to businesses since they are increasingly demanding a more far-reaching interface with all levels of government in order to facilitate timely response to events that pose a threat to business survival. Moreover, businesses have to be encouraged by the emergency management unions to provide resources that contribute to timely preparedness, response, and mitigation activities.
There is also a need for local emergency management efforts to be synchronized with plans and programs that encourage integration between local, county, state, and federal authorities. Without proper synchronization and integration, delays may occur, meaning that resources may not be moved to where they are required at the right time.
It is imperative for emergency management unions to put in place and sustain sincere relations among organizations and individuals alike in order to advocate a team-building atmosphere, trust, facilitate communication, and to build consensus. In this regard, collaboration should be viewed from the point of view of an attitude or better still, an organizational character that emphasizes on unity, cooperation, and purpose-driven cohesion within the community. Collaboration yields an environment where all functions can be coordinated effectively.
In situations of emergency and disaster, the extent of performance success is greatly determined by the extent to which an open and cooperative relationship exists between the agencies and individuals involved. A case in point to demonstrate this point is that of Hurricane Katrina. During this disaster, it was clear that solid relationships were the most significant factor for determining the strength of emergency management unions as well as the intergovernmental chain. This nature of relationships also mattered with regard to all the other people who were called upon to help in the high-stress situation, both in their individual capacities and within the organizations that they were working for. Efforts aimed at collaboration are normally intended to propagate a friendly culture that makes it easy for all communication channels to function as they are supposed to.
Without collaboration, it is impossible for different roles and functions to be undertaken. It should be put in consideration that all the people working within an emergency management union work in an environment of high uncertainty, particularly when a disaster strikes. Moreover, the operations are normally carried out in a multi-organizational environment. In this regard, three efforts are worth putting into consideration. The first one is a commitment to identify all the potential players in the event of a disaster and work in planning and preparedness efforts. Secondly, once broad involvement has been achieved, efforts should be directed at ensuring that real, human contact is sustained as necessary in order to ensure that in case of a disaster event, the system of collaboration will work. Thirdly, the involvement will all partners should be founded on a heartfelt desire to continually listen to and put into consideration all their reservations, ideas, and concerns regarding the preparedness and planning efforts. This appears to be the most critical element considering that this sincere interest is the one that guarantees understanding and support during the team-building efforts aimed at protecting communities once disaster events occur.
The success of emergency management unions is also greatly determined by the extent of coordination among various stakeholders with the community. The coordination efforts should ideally start prior to the occurrence of the disaster event. The goal of the leaders of a union should always to ensure that a common purpose is being pursued.
Sometimes emergency managers find themselves in a position whereby they are unable to direct the numerous activities being undertaken by many organizations and agencies involved in a big emergency management program. In some cases, the leaders in charge of the organizations tend to hold a position of seniority compared to the emergency manager. They also tend to have direct contact with senior officials. At other times, they operate in complete autonomy. Moreover, every stakeholder comes into the planning efforts with radically different authorizes, cultures, operating missions, and legal mandates. In such scenarios, coordination is needed and the best platform for it to be achieved is through the efforts of emergency management unions or service providers. The unions may easily bring together the disparate agencies and obtain a formula of operations that will ensure that a common purpose is pursued. Coordination facilitates the achievement of the intended goals even in situations where the agencies operate independently of each other.
Strategic thinking is necessary on the part of the emergency manager. He has to perceive a holistic image of the desired outcomes and the role that each stakeholder can play successfully. In this regard, the manager should look at the resources and capabilities that each stakeholder is going to bring into the emergency response efforts. This mode of thinking is the one that inspired the establishment of the national preparedness standards as well as the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) in the US. In the development of the strategic plan, goals have to be identified and agreed upon. From there, stakeholders are persuaded to accept responsibility for overseeing different performance objectives. With a strategic plan in place, it becomes easy to monitor the program for progress as well as assess it for accomplishments.
This approach is also applicable in efforts to come up with a specific plan, for example, one that leads to the plan of recovery. It also greatly helps in efforts to design a tactical response once a disaster event has taken place. Coordination efforts also fit in with the emergency management cycles that are normally adopted within different jurisdictions. In such a way, the unions are able to exert leverage against the cities and localities in which they operate.
Flexibility is a key factor in determining the extent to which emergency management efforts are successful. Emergency management unions are flexible making use of a wide range of innovative and creative approaches to solve disaster challenges. This flexibility goes a long way in increasing their leverage against the local and city authorities in their areas of operation.
Owing to the diversity and variation in responsibilities, one of the most desirable qualities of emergency managers is flexibility in the way they carry out their duties (Wilson, 2001). These leaders have to devise ways of overcoming and tolerating the traditional agencies of government, whose policies, laws, and operating guidelines are conventionally thought to allow for little or no flexibility in the way duties are performed. The people working in these emergency management unions have to be so flexible as to ensure that creative solutions are sought in order to address numerous challenges in order to achieve the intended goals.
Assessment of risk and vulnerabilities is a key component of flexibility, largely because it greatly determines how the creative efforts aimed at solving the problems are going to be pursued. In any risk existing in a locality, more than a single mitigation strategy exists. The emergency professionals working in a union must always have all the options ready for presentation to the local or city authorities. Once these options have been presented, the unions easily get leverage against the authorities. This enables them to carry out their work effectively and minimal distractions.
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Nevertheless, flexibility is needed not just at the level of response and mitigation but also preparedness. With regard to preparedness, the emphasis is on ensuring that as many resources as possible have been created, mobilized, and maintained, resulting in a properly-organized response structure in the city or locality. Emergency operations plan that risk-based is one of the critical resources that must be developed within the community if the leverage against the city and local authorities is to be built. This plan should not be like the procedures and policies of the government, which tend to be specific and whose design leaves little room for comprehensive interpretation. The plan developed by the union should be flexible enough to be applicable to a wide range of community emergency operations.
Emergency management experts will certainly agree that response is the most dramatic phase in emergency management. This is the phase that requires the emergency management unions and agencies to coordinate all their activities in order to ensure that all objectives are met. It is at this point that the greatest amount of flexibility is called for, since different tactics and procedures have to be tried, adopted, and abandoned in favor of new ones, depending on the degree of success and on the unfolding disaster event. In such a situation, the disaster event tends to be unclear, meaning that the agencies responding to it have to keep as many options open as possible. At this juncture, local authorities are likely to let the union that is most flexible in its response strategy have its way to pursue the intended objectives. The emphasis here is normally on creativity in problem-solving on the basis of the unfolding event as opposed to the rigid reference to pre-existing plans.
The leaders of the emergency management union have to go beyond merely being part of the team that ultimately determines the priorities that will be adhered to in the recovery efforts; they have to aspire to have an influence on how these priorities are chosen based on their capabilities. This entails the ability to deal with the social, political, and economic pressures that can greatly influence the decisions that are made. The natural thing to do, though, is focused on all the short-term efforts relating to disaster recovery. Nevertheless, it is not prudent for the emergency response agency to abandon the community’s long-term needs. It is upon the leadership of the emergency management union to steer this aspect of disaster recovery.
For the emergency management preparedness to achieve credibility, they need to have proper professional knowledge of what their work entails. A knowledge-based perspective to disaster management is an excellent way of exerting leverage against the authorities in a city or rural neighborhood. The main components of professionalism in this regard include education, training, ethical practice, experience, and public stewardship.
In respect of the principles that should be adhered to emergency management, professionalism pertains to the commitment to the individual to engage in the management of disasters and emergencies as a professional. This is as opposed to the personal emergency management professional’s personal attributes. The individual should consider the work as a profession and not a vocation or a discipline. In this regard, there are two key characteristics to focus on: the code of ethics and professional associations.
It is rather unfortunate that no all-inclusive code of ethics is yet to be agreed upon in this profession, there is an ethical code that is internationally accepted as the appropriate standard for emergency managers, that is, the Ethical Code of the International Association of Emergency Managers. The most internationally recognized associated with people working in the field of emergency management is the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). In the US, the National Emergency Managers’ Association (NEMA) is the most recognized association for these professionals. It has close links with another lesser-known local, state, and professional associations. Emergency management unions whose employees demonstrate affiliation with such a high level of professionalism are more likely to exert their leverage on any authority that may be hampering their efforts to put in place disaster response mechanisms.
A case study demonstrating the failure Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) handling of the Hurricane Katrina Disaster
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a US federal agency that operates within the Department of Homeland Security. The primary role of FEMA is to carry out coordinated efforts in response to disasters occurring in the US, in which the resources of state and local authorities have been overwhelmed. Prior to the engagement of FEMA’s services, the state affected by the disaster is required by law to give a declaration of a state of emergency and make a formal request to the president to allow FEMA to make a response to the disaster. The only situation in which no gubernatorial declaration is required is a situation in which a federal asset or property has been affected by an emergency or disaster. A case in point where FEMA interfered without the gubernatorial declaration was the Oklahoma City bombing.
In many instances, FEMA has been said to have failed in its mandate to respond to disasters occurring in different parts of the US. A case in point is the Hurricane Katrina disaster event, which took place within the Gulf Coast. Days before this disaster struck, the city of Chicago volunteered to make some resources available for use in relief efforts in the areas that might be affected by the deadly storm. Chicago made a communication with the Federal Emergency Management Authority that in case a disaster struck it was willing to volunteer more than 100 police officers, 36 Fire Department employees, 8 emergency medical personnel, and 130 staff from the city’s Department of Public Health (Manjoo, 2005). Additionally, Chicago expressed willingness to send 140 personnel from the Department of Streets and Sanitation, two boats, and dozens of trucks.
Richard Daley, the Mayor of Chicago, told federal officials that these teams could embark on their work in all the affected regions independently, meaning that they would bring with them their own food and water supplies. However, FEMA expressed lack of interest in this proposal. This refusal came despite the televised reports that indicated that there was a dire shortage of resources for use in responding to the disaster in New Orleans, Louisiana. Instead of accepting the resources being provided for free, FEMA chose to accept only one item: a tanker truck, much to the shock of the Mayor of Chicago.
Incidentally, the City of Chicago was not the only one facing obstacles from federal emergency management officials. Throughout the previous week, numerous state and local corporations, governments, and not-for-profit organizations were snubbed by FEMA officials after attempting to offer assistance in the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The level of discontent towards FEMA rose with the realization that the federal officials were themselves not at hand to provide the precious assistance, however little, to the affected people who were desperately looking for it. The American Red Cross was barred from getting going inside New Orleans by the Department of Homeland Security, who cited security concerns.
Moreover, FEMA turned away some 500 personnel from Florida, who had already demonstrated willingness to rescue people whose inundated homes had left them stranded. Other numerous examples were cited where federal emergency management officials failed to cooperate with other stakeholders in responding to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Yet this negative public image has not always been synonymous with this emergency management agency. During the early 1990s, FEMA was often cited as one of the best-run federal agencies (Waugh, 1994). For instance, it was praised for its response to the 1993 Midwestern floods, the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. When compared to these performances, the Hurricane Katrina response was judged as very poor.
According to George Haddow, the former FEMA chief of staff who was employed by the agency during Clinton’s presidency, the mistakes made by FEMA are all clearly understandable. In Haddow’s view, the flaws arose from the decision by the Bush Administration to retract the federal administration out of all business relating to natural disaster relief, and instead delegating more power to local and state officials. This was evident during the political disaster that was prompted by Hurricane Katrina, during which federal officials were quick to absolve the Washington officials from the blame, instead of laying it on authorities in Louisiana. In this case, the slow aid had to do with the slow flow of aid, in which analysts noted that it underscored the philosophy of President Bush, that of handing over the disaster-relief business to local and state agencies.
Haddow’s observation was that the White House, instead of working closely with local officials to minimize the negative impacts of the storm, the White House opted to use the strategy of keeping a long distance from the emergency management unions operating on the ground. In this way, whenever anything went wrong, the federal emergency management officials would easily push the blame to local and state officials.
The challenges that FEMA faced during the response to Hurricane Katrina underscore the need to adhere to the principles of emergency management, namely flexibility, professionalism, coordination, progressiveness, presence of risk management efforts, and integration. They also underscore the importance of bringing on board all the impacts, all stakeholders, all hazards, and all phases of emergency management.
Nevertheless, the Hurricane Katrina occurred at a time of a highly dynamic local, national, and international environment, where the roles played by different individuals and agencies in society was being radically reshaped to reflect new technological and globalization-related realities. The disaster also struck at a time when the US was facing serious threats from terrorism. Given that FEMA operates within the Department of Homeland Security, one may be forgiven to suggest the disaster event was overlooked because of the way it appeared ‘trivial’ in relation to the threats posed by international terrorists. Nevertheless, even if this assumption was put into consideration, professional emergency managers should have put into consideration both the short-term suffering of the people of New Orleans as well as the long-term impact that the disaster was going to have on their lives.
Going forward, there is a need for this federal agency to put in place new approaches, capabilities, and tools as part of its preparedness efforts. Without these new approaches, FEMA may have a difficult time trying to exert leverage on local and state emergency management unions. It should also be emphasized that issues of public security and safety are new, complex changes at an alarmingly fast rate, hence for inclusive engagement to be undertaken in collaboration with all stakeholders in order for appropriate planning to be carried proactively towards the direction of the shifting trends.
A case study demonstrating the success of the New Orleans Fire Department’s (NOFD)
The New Orleans Fire Department (NFOD) is a fire management union tasked with the responsibility of providing fire protection services within the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Following the devastation that was left behind by Hurricane Katrina, the NOFD found itself in an awkward position of being unable to deal with a crisis. Hurricane Katrina hit the city on August 29, 2005, and it turned out to be the worst natural disaster ever for the US.
The hurricane shattered infrastructure, rendered roads impassable, and communication lines were dysfunctional. The entire cite lost power connections and more than 1000 gas leaks occurred across the city (City of New Orleans Fire Department, 2006). Numerous hazardous materials found their way into New Orleans. Throughout the city, there were a number of large fires that wreaked havoc to the residents of the city.
Immediately, the NOFD sprang into action and embarked on rescue efforts. These efforts were being undertaken even as the water continued rising and the winds howled. The response and mitigation efforts took several weeks. The majority of the members of the community in the city had lost all their possessions and homes. Moreover, they could not communicate with their loved ones for several days. The death toll in the hurricane, considering both direct and direct impact, was 1833.
During this crisis, one notable positive element of the NOFD was the way this emergency management union was able to streamline operations with numerous entities that were volunteering to offer assistance. Some of the states that offered assistance include Maryland, New York, and Illinois. This assistance proved helpful in the operations in which thousands of lives were saved. In the response efforts, the NOFD faced numerous challenges, and some of them included insufficient manpower and lack of enough fire-fighting platforms such as fire stations.
In this case study, the focus is on response to hazardous materials by the NOFD following the hurricane. The hazmat (hazardous materials) team members undertook to evaluate a number of facilities containing the so-called EHS (Extremely Hazardous Materials). Moreover, they had to comb through some 430 facilities that did not contain the EHS, in which case they were searching for railcars and other hazardous materials with damages and leaks. Moreover, the search was extended to abandoned containers that had been pushed far away by the raging waters.
An interesting aspect of work aimed at identifying and disposing of hazardous materials was the way a large number of entities were able to contribute to the efforts, despite the fact that each with its own command structure. One category of these entities was the institutions in which the further testing and evaluation of the hazardous materials was done. Some of these institutions include the New Orleans Medical Center of Louisiana, Louisiana, Dennis Sheen Transfer Company, and Louisiana State University School of Dentistry (City of New Orleans Fire Department, 2006).
Later on other institutions and unions joined the fray and were accommodated rather seamlessly so that they could be made crucial contributions in the hazardous materials menace. These included the US Environmental Protection Authority, the Louisiana National Guard Civil Support Team, and Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment teams. These entities were provided very valuable resources, mainly hazmat equipment and personnel. They also assisted firefighters to survive during the first few weeks following the hurricane.
The NOFD also facilitated the work of assigning a small EPA group to take command of the New Orleans hazmat operations. In this task, they would be assisted by Civil Support Teams. The Illinois Hazmat team also chipped in to offer assistance to the EPA group and Civil Support Teams. In the broader realm, the NOFD got the assistance of about 2,000 firefighters from different parts of the country (City of New Orleans Fire Department, 2006). These firefighters provided crucial supplementary assistance following the historic disaster.
The process of dealing with Hazmat contributed a great deal in making a decision on priority areas during the evacuation of the city. It should be borne in mind that before the storm hit, 80% of the people in the city had been evacuated (City of New Orleans Fire Department, 2006). If such efforts had not been undertaken, the death toll from the hurricane could have been much higher. Nevertheless, critics have maintained the number of people evacuated prior to the disaster would have been higher. The lingering question is on the role that the NOFD should have played in these efforts.
Implications of the FEMA’s failures and NOFD’s successes for policymaking around emergency management
It is clear that FEMA should have shown more leadership in its response to the Hurricane Katrina Disaster. FEMA failed to observe some of the principles of emergency management, particularly coordination, collaboration, flexibility, and progressiveness. The federal emergency management officials failed to coordinate their activities and courses of action with those of the NOFD and other unions working towards ensuring that appropriate response mechanisms were in place even before the onset of the hurricane. The officials failed to collaborate with various unions within Louisiana State in the evacuation, preparedness, mitigation, search-and-rescue, and recovery efforts. This showed a lack of leadership on the part of the Federal Emergency Management Authority.
The failure by FEMA to show leadership was also demonstrated in the way FEMA officials attempted to push the blame to New Orleans city authorities. One such effort was based on the federal authorities’ explanation that it was not possible for a timely response to be organized because the New Orleans city authorities were not specific on the kind of assistance that they required from the federal agency. With such a lack of leadership and commitment to the principles of emergency, it becomes difficult for an emergency management union to exert leverage on local authorities in dealing with a major disaster.
In contrast, the NOFD appears to have fared much better in exerting its leverage on other authorities. The issue of exerting leverage was at the heart of NOFD’s successes and FEMA’s failures. A case in point is the assertion by the Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley directed at federal officials, that the teams provided by Chicago would have to work in the affected regions independently, meaning that they would bring with them their own food and water supplies.
In summary, it is evident that some overarching explanations can be derived from the analysis made in this paper regarding the importance of exerting leverage in the success of efforts by emergency management unions. For the unions to succeed in their undertaking, they have to put in place policies that are modeled around core principles of emergency management. These principles include coordination, collaboration, integrated efforts, risk management approaches, flexibility, progressiveness, and professionalism. Emergency management unions that incorporate these principles find it easy to put into consideration all impacts, hazards, stakeholders, and all phases of emergency management.
City of New Orleans Fire Department (2006) Report on Recovery and Reconstruction Planning Process after Hurricane Katrina, March 31, 2006.
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