Emergency management stakeholders

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This chapter will introduce the many actors in emergency management and examine some of the problems inherent in dealing with the complex emergency management policy process. The first section will address four basic issues. First, how is a “stakeholder” defined, especially in the context of emergency management? Second, who are the stakeholders emergency managers should be concerned about? Third, at what level in the system and by which different stakeholders are different types of emergency management decisions made? Fourth, how can emergency managers involve these stakeholders in the emergency management process? Last, what types and amounts of power do different stakeholder groups have and how do they influence the emergency management policy process?

Definition of a “Stakeholder”

Stakeholders are people who have, or think they have, a personal interest in the outcome of a policy. This interest motivates them to attempt to influence the development of that policy. In the early days of this country, only citizens with a sufficiently large “stake” in the nation’s welfare (as measured by property holdings) were allowed to vote. Now, all citizens are recognized as stakeholders insofar as all are affected by the decisions made by elected and appointed officials and, therefore, have the right to vote. Consequently, an emergency management stakeholder is an individual who is affected by the decisions made (or not made) by emergency managers and policymakers in his or her community. Since all citizens are likely to be affected by emergency management policies, this definition implies all citizens are emergency management stakeholders. Although this is true, it is not very helpful because stakeholders differ in the ways they are affected by emergency management policies and, even more important, they differ in the times at which they are affected and the magnitude of the impacts policy has on them. It is not enough, however, to say that everyone is potentially affected by disasters. Thus, this chapter will examine the different types of people who have an interest in the emergency management process, beginning at the simplest level of social organization.

Community Stakeholder Groups

Community stakeholder groups can be divided into three different categories—social groups, economic groups, and political groups. In turn, each of these types of groups can be characterized by its horizontal and vertical linkages (Berke, Kartez & Wenger, 1993). Horizontal linkages are defined by the frequency and importance of contacts with other groups of the same type; vertical linkages consist of ties with larger groups. Each of the three types of groups will be discussed in the following sections.

Social Groups

It is sometimes said local government is the foundation for emergency management but, in fact, the basic organizational unit for emergency management is the household. Households adopt hazard adjustments (especially mitigation and preparedness measures), households evacuate, and households suffer economic losses. All households, no matter their size or level of resources, have an interest in the emergency management policies developed and implemented in their communities. The household is the primary living unit providing shelter from routine environmental conditions. Households’ actions affect their vulnerability to environmental hazards through their choice to live in more or less hazard-prone locations; to rent or buy residences that are more or less resistant to environmental extremes of wind, water, and ground-shaking; and whether or not to engage in pre-impact adjustments to limit their disaster vulnerability. As a group, households control a substantial amount of the social assets (buildings and their contents) at risk from environmental hazards, but this control is spread among a very large number of households, which makes it difficult to affect their policy choices. Although households typically attach a low priority to natural hazards, there is substantial variation, with some substantially more aware than others of the hazards they face.

Households vary in their incentives to prepare for disasters and to adopt hazard mitigation. For example, property owners have more money at risk than tenants because they own the structures as well as the contents of these structures. Households also vary in their capacity to select and implement appropriate hazard adjustments because of differences in their financial resources, their knowledge of hazards and adjustments, and the decision processes they use to apply this knowledge. Other stakeholders such as the local and state governments have a modest degree of influence over households. Government agencies often provide hazard information and sometimes provide incentives for adopting hazard adjustments, but are rarely able to compel households to do anything about hazards.

Just as citizens organize to better develop their understanding of issues and increase their power to present these views to the rest of the public, householders can organize as groups to develop emergency management policy in their neighborhoods. One of the most obvious gaps in the picture of stakeholders is the lack of a broad-based support group for individual householders, analogous to the Neighborhood Watch programs that exist across the country. In some communities, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) are beginning to fill this role. CERTs may also be known as Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams, Neighborhood Emergency Assistance Teams, or other similar designations, but they share a common origin and many other characteristics (Simpson, 2001). CERTs are designed to train first responders at the neighborhood level and organize them in groups capable of providing basic emergency response services such as triage, first aid, urban search and rescue, fire suppression, and damage and casualty estimates at the block or neighborhood level. These groups are usually supported and trained by local emergency service agencies. As they become institutionalized, they can serve as a support group and interest aggregator for householders (for more information, see the FEMA Web site at training.fema.gov/emiweb/CERT/index.asp).

As we move up the scale of social organization, there are private sector groups such as religious organizations and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), nonprofit organizations (NPOs), community based organizations (CBOs), and businesses. All of these groups vary widely in size, level of organizational complexity, and amount of resources available. They also vary based on the functions they perform in society and, thus, varying levels of interest in local emergency management activities. Nonetheless, all are potential partners in formulating emergency management practices and policies. NGOs, NPOs, and CBOs can be important resources for emergency managers. Some have traditionally played key roles in specific phases of emergency management. For example, churches are often used as shelters during evacuations and frequently help provide recovery funding. They should be integrated into the early stages of response and recovery planning processes in order to ensure their resources are fully utilized without unnecessary duplication of effort and competition for access to disaster victims.

Large scale NGOs organized at the national level also have historically played a role in emergency management. The Salvation Army is widely involved in response and recovery activities and organizations such as the United Way serve to channel local funds to those needing help during the recovery period. The American Red Cross, an affiliate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has an official role in this country as the provider of emergency shelter.

Environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org) and the Worldwatch Institute (www.worldwatch.org) have not been very involved with local emergency management agencies, in spite of the conceptual overlap between environmental protection and hazard mitigation. This commonality of interests presents an opportunity for local emergency managers to forge alliances with environmental groups at the local level to foster sound land use practices, especially for the mitigation of floods through comprehensive watershed management. Environmental organizations have also published many books that are useful to emergency managers (e.g., Abramowitz, 2001a; Bullard, 1996; Flavin, 1994; Sierra Club, 2000).

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