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What You Will Learn
The process by which the emergency management function evolved within the United States, and the watershed events that drove these changes
Measures taken to address the terrorism hazard within the United States, both prior to and following the September 11 terrorist attacks
The influence exacted upon all-hazards emergency management in the United States by the series of post-event revisions to the nation's emergency management systems and structures
The financial costs of disasters in the United States and around the world
Harry Truman once said, "The only thing new is the history we don't know." For many Americans, the rush of activities by the government to pass new laws, reorganize government institutions, and allocate vast sums of money in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks may have seemed unprecedented. The reality is that similar actions in terms of both type and scope have happened in the past, and these historical experiences can provide insight into the prospect of the ultimate success or failure of the actions that have been taken since the September 11 attacks occurred.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide an historic perspective of the evolution of emergency management policies, statutes, and practices in the United States and to examine the chronology of events and actions leading up to and beyond September 11, 2001. This perspective will help frame the issues to be discussed in subsequent chapters of this book, which will detail the legislative, organizational, and operational underpinnings of America's homeland security structure.
This chapter provides summaries of the tragic events of September 11 including updated statistics, first responder anecdotes and perspectives, timelines, and review of after-action reports. Additional information is provided for three other major terrorist incidents: the 1993 World Trade Center (WTC) bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Office Building, and the 2001 anthrax incidents in Washington, DC.
Emergency Management in the United States
In this section, we explore the historical, organizational, and legislative history of modern emergency management in the United States. We review some of the significant events and people who have shaped the emergency management discipline over the years. Understanding this history and evolution is important because it can provide insight into why emergency management concepts have been applied differently at different times.
There is no single definition of emergency management, and those that have been applied tend to be extremely broad and all encompassing. Additionally, in the United States the discipline of emergency management has expanded and contracted in response to events, the desires of Congress, and leadership styles. Simply defined, emergency management is the discipline dealing with the identification and analysis of public hazards, the mitigation of and preparedness for public risk, and the coordination of resources in response to and recovery from associated emergency events. Risk represents a broad range of issues and includes an equally diverse set of players.
The range of situations that could possibly involve emergency management or various components of the emergency management system is extensive. Through time, as it has developed, the emergency management function has become integral to the security of our daily lives and has been integrated into our daily decisions. Emergency management professionals are no longer called upon only in times of disaster.
Emergency management has clearly become an essential role of government. The Constitution entrusted the states with responsibility for ensuring public health and safety — hence, responsibility for public risks — and assigned the federal government to a secondary, supportive role. The federal role was originally conceived such that it intervenes when the state, local, or individual entities are overwhelmed. This fundamental philosophy continues to guide the government function of emergency management.
The nation's strong foundation of emergency management was developed and has evolved over a period of many decades, and through all this the validity of the discipline has never come into question. Entities and organizations fulfilling the mission of this function, likewise, have existed at the state and local level for a considerable time, even before the federal government became involved. But as history-defining events occurred, political philosophies changed, and the nation developed, the federal role in emergency management steadily increased to the point where it stands today. The following section outlines the development of the emergency management function in the United States from the early 19th century to present day.
What are the benefits of a statutory authority that assigns the federal government a secondary, supportive role in the nation's emergency management system, while the local government maintains command and control authority? Are there any intrinsic problems with such a system? What is done to alleviate those problems?
Early History: 1800–1950
In 1803, a congressional act was passed to provide financial assistance to a New Hampshire town devastated by fire. This is the first example of the federal government becoming involved in a local disaster. Following this disaster it was not until the administration of Franklin Roosevelt began to use government as a tool to stimulate the economy that we saw a significant investment in emergency management functions in the federal government.
During the 1930s, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Bureau of Public Roads were both granted the authority to make disaster loans available for repair and reconstruction of certain public facilities after disasters. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created during this era to produce hydroelectric power and, as a secondary purpose, to reduce flooding in the region.
A significant piece of emergency management legislation, the Flood Control Act of 1934, was passed during this time. This act, which gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased authority to design and build flood control projects, ultimately made a significant and long-lasting impact on emergency management in this country. The Flood Control Act reflected the philosophy that humanity could control nature, thereby eliminating the risk of floods. The immediate-term success of this program promoted economic and population growth patterns along the nation's rivers, but history proved with a vengeance that such bold attempts at emergency management can be shortsighted and costly.
The Cold War and the Rise of Civil Defense: 1950s
The next notable period of emergency management evolution occurred during the 1950s. The Cold War era presented the potential for nuclear war and nuclear fallout as the principal disaster risk. Civil defense programs proliferated across communities during this time. Individuals and communities alike were encouraged to and did build bomb shelters to protect themselves and their families from a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.
Almost every community appointed a civil defense director, and most states designed into their state government hierarchy a position whose incumbent managed civil defense activities in that state. These individuals tended to have military backgrounds, and their operations received little political or financial support from the state or local governments they served. Furthermore, the civil defense responsibilities they managed were often in addition to other duties.
Federal support for these activities was vested in the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), an organization with few staff and limited financial resources whose main role was to provide technical assistance. Despite these shortfalls, the local and state civil defense directors are the first recognized face of emergency management in the United States.
A companion office to the FCDA, the Office of Defense Mobilization, was established in the Department of Defense (DOD). The primary functions of this office were to allow for the quick mobilization of materials and the production and stockpiling of critical materials in the event of war. It included a function called emergency preparedness. In 1958, these two offices were merged into the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization.
The 1950s were a quiet time for large-scale natural disasters, but not devoid of them. Hurricane Hazel, a Category 4 hurricane, inflicted significant damage in Virginia and North Carolina in 1954; Hurricane Diane hit several mid-Atlantic and northeastern states in 1955; and Hurricane Audrey, the most damaging of the three storms, struck Louisiana and north Texas in 1957. Congressional response to these disasters followed a familiar pattern of ad hoc legislation to provide increased disaster assistance funds to the affected areas.
Natural Disasters Bring Changes to Emergency Management: 1960s
As the 1960s began, three major natural disasters occurred. In a sparsely populated area of Montana in 1960, the Hebgen Lake earthquake struck, measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale, raising attention to the fact that the nation's earthquake risk extended far beyond California's borders. Later that year Hurricane Donna hit the west coast of Florida, and in 1961 Hurricane Carla blew across Texas. The incoming Kennedy administration decided to change the federal approach to disasters. In 1961, it created the Office of Emergency Preparedness inside the White House to deal with these large-scale events. It distinguished these activities from the civil defense responsibilities, which remained in the Office of Civil Defense within DOD.
During the remainder of the 1960s, the United States was struck by a series of major natural disasters. The 1962 Ash Wednesday storm devastated more than 620 miles of shoreline on the East Coast, inflicting more than $300 million in damages. In 1964, in Prince William Sound, Alaska, an earthquake measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale garnered front-page news throughout the nation and the world. This Easter quake killed 123 people and generated a tsunami that affected beaches as far south as the Pacific Coast of California. Hurricane Betsy struck in 1965, and Hurricane Camille in 1969, together killing and injuring hundreds and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage along the Gulf Coast.
The response to these events, as with previous disasters, was the passage of ad hoc legislation for funds. However, the financial losses resulting from Hurricane Betsy's path across Florida and Louisiana engendered a discussion of insurance as protection against future floods and a potential method to reduce continued government assistance after disasters. The unavailability of flood protection insurance on the standard homeowner policy, and the prohibitive cost of such insurance where it was available, prompted congressional interest. These discussions eventually led to the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, which in turn created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
It is interesting to note how local and state governments have chosen to administer this flood risk program. At those levels, civil defense departments had usually been responsible for dealing with matters pertaining to risk and disasters. Although the NFIP pertained to these areas, responsibilities for the NFIP were given to local planning departments and state departments of natural resources. This is but one illustration of the fragmented and piecemeal approach to emergency management that began to evolve during the 1960s and continued during the following decade.
Excerpted from Introduction to Homeland Security by Jane A. Bullock George D. Haddow Damon P. Coppola Sarp Yeletaysi Copyright © 2009 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Butterworth-Heinemann. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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1 Historic Overview of the Terrorist Threat 1
2 Statutory Authority 31
3 Organizational Actions 79
4 Terrorist-Related Hazards 151
5 Safety and Security 209
6 Mitigation, Prevention, and Preparedness 303
7 Response and Recovery 367
8 Communications 491
9 Technology 549
10 The Future of Homeland Security 581