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Improving A FEMA Standard in Emergency Management

THE CURRENT STANDARD

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) currently trains a four-phased approach in Emergency Management. This four-phase approach covers three interrelated components identified in FEMA Independent Study Course IS10.3:
All types of hazards – There are many common features of technological and natural disasters and attack, suggesting that many of the same management strategies can apply to all emergencies.
An emergency management partnership – Finding resources for disaster management requires a partnership among all levels of government (local, State, and Federal) and the private sector (business and industry, voluntary organizations, and the public). This approach also allows the disaster victims to contribute to emergency management solutions. Emergency managers and the animal-care community can collaborate in such a partnership.
An emergency life cycle – Disasters do not just appear one day — they exist throughout time and have a life cycle of occurrence. This cycle is matched by a series of management phases: establish strategies to mitigate hazards; prepare for and respond to emergencies; and recover from effects.
The key point in understanding FEMA’s approach is that while they identify the life cycle of disasters they do not separate two of the key phases. FEMA methodology ensures that Prevention and Mitigation are not separate cycles under the phases of emergency management. Below is the life cycle of emergency management that is proposed by FEMA as well as corresponding definitions.

The FEMA Four Phases of Emergency Management

Mitigation – The task of preventing future emergencies or minimizing their effects
Preparedness – The task of preparing to handle an emergency
Response – The act of responding activities that occur during an emergency.
Recovery – The actions taken to return to a normal or better after an emergency
FEMA’s four phased approach was achievable due to the lesser evolved threats that were affecting the United States during the agency’s creation in 1979. However, as global climates have changed, and detractors of civilized western society have grown the need to accept that mitigation is the actionable task of lessening the effects of disaster events structurally and the need for prevention to be focused on the actual act of preventing the endangerment to the human component. This could include prevention of the mentally unstable getting access to implements of harm.

PREVENTION VERSUS MITIGATION DEFINED

We draw detractors on this mindset of preventing disasters or the effects of disasters because there are studies showing disasters happen and we can not prevent them. This is mostly true, but we can prevent some and we can prevent how they affect us, the human component. To understand the differences, we cite Bexar County Emergency Management’s Five-Phase approach, which we adopt and apply. Bexar County Emergency Management definitions are provided below:
PreventionFocus on preventing human hazards from disaster or attack events. Measures developed are designed to provide permanent protection in the face of knowing not all disasters are preventable. However, permanent preventable measures can reduce loss of life and injury.[2]
Mitigationactions taken to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters and emergencies. Involves structural and non-structural measures taken to limit the impact of disasters and emergencies. Structural mitigation actions change the characteristics of buildings or the environment; examples include flood control projects, raising building elevations, and clearing areas around structures. Non-structural mitigation most often entails adopting or changing building codes.[2]
The separation of these two cycles allows prevention planning to aid emergency managers in their primary goal of life safety; this includes the life safety of first responders. Separating mitigation allows emergency managers to pursue city planning structural changes as well as the necessary legislature to propose or recommend code or structural policy changes. While theoretically combining the two cycles makes sense to the inexperienced individual, situations arise where prevention or mitigation needs to be separate as the other is in line or is developed in a manner where it is successful. For example, a building up to new regulatory codes need only have a new occupant emergency management plan developed to ensure prevention of harm to the occupants during a disaster. These things include shelter-in-place plans, evacuation plans, etc. that lend to the reduction in harm and life saving potential of a comprehensive emergency management plan.

THE FULL FIVE-PHASED APPROACH

R.E.M.C.O.R., LLC, USA prides itself on being a progressive collection of experts through strategic networking that innovate and apply continuous improvement processes through research and data analysis. After thorough research and analysis R.E.M.C.O.R., LLC, USA chose to adapt the five-phased emergency management cycle on a two key component basis. The first is the focus of prevention on human life and separating it from structural importance. Secondly, breaking mitigation into structural actions increases the abilities of governments and agencies to understand what structural methods can be taken to compliment the ability of prevention planning to ensure reduction in loss of life/injury during and emergency scenario. Below is a link to the Bexar County Emergency Management five-phased planning cycle:
As you can see the definitions of each phase of emergency management become slightly altered in the five-phased approach utilized by Bexar County. This slight alteration, we at R.E.M.C.O.R., LLC believe is changed for the better and allows a much greater focus on the concepts of endurability and survivability which we apply through all of our planning and project phases.
[1] FEMA tables retrieved from FEMA IS 10 courses through EMI
[2] Retrieved from: https://www.bexar.org/694/Five-Phases on 22 Aug, 2018

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