Elements in Florida State Emergency Plan
By merely watching the news or reading a newspaper, we quickly discover that disasters of different types happen to individuals, companies, and countries on virtually a daily basis throughout the world (Schneid & Collins,2001). Such disasters include, but are not least, burning, floods, disease outbreaks, earthquakes and accidents. Due to the dangers that these situations pose, planning to deal with such occurrences is necessary to deal with the disasters swiftly.
Florida State was not left behind of preparing for the crises affecting them. The state has produced an elaborate program entitled “Florida State’s Comprehensive Emergency Response Program 2012” This came about after the realization of the dangers that face them. This was informed by their unique coastal location that leaves them exposed to natural disasters like floods, tropical cyclones, tornados, and wildfires. It is also vulnerable to freezing temperatures, drought, and biological hazards. Technological hazards include vulnerability to prolonged blackouts, leakage from nuclear reactors, spilling of oil in seas and oceans, poisoning of water reservoirs. The human-made disasters may consist of terrorist attacks and mass migration events because of the closeness to neighboring countries with political instability.
The plan’s objective is to minimize the impact of the disaster by ensuring no lives are lost and aids the quick recovery from the accident. The program is meant to put in place to ways to enable experiences to be preserved when a disaster strikes and prevent injuries that may render people crippled or result in permanent damage to essential parts of the body. The cost of infrastructure leads to massive losses, and if people can prevent such, it is beneficial. A lot of money is spent on restoring such things, and that money could be put into better use to make the quality of life better for the citizens. It is also essential that people fall back to their ordinary lives the soonest as possible after a disaster ha struck. This is important for it makes people keep up with the rate of growth they planned for and achieve their goals in life quickly.
The plan is carried out within the confines of the law. This is because any activity, no matter its nature, must uphold the rule of law. The legislative authority ensures a swift and temporary succession in the functions of state operations during emergencies when the concerned are unavailable during such circumstances. The legislature can also appoint an “emergency interim successor” who performs and carries the duties of an office until another one is elected, appointed, or the office bearer resumes office. This ensures that no gap may lead to delays or failure of proper response during emergencies. This is because the difference can cause loss of life, injuries, and infrastructure damage, among other effects.
Any planning activity requires putting in place proper mechanisms. This mechanism involves the command and control structure that ensures the smooth running of operations when the need arises. This is meant to provide timely intervention in case a disaster strikes. The plan has its command and control structure, and this is because of its nature. The fact that it carries out its mandate through multiple jurisdictions requires clear structures to respond to crises effectively. This structure avoids overlapping activities, unnecessary delays, and scramble for limited resources within the various units that work towards preventing loss and damage during operations.
When a disaster strikes, a swift response is expected. In this plan, it is carried out through a process called activation. The activation process involves three levels. Level 3 is the first stage that requires monitoring of the situation. This level includes a closer look at the normal prevailing conditions in any case. The observations are used to chart the next course of action if the situation gets out of hand. Level 2 is the second stage that involves partial activation but may not require all units to tackle the problem. This entails closer observation and preparation of resources needed to respond to the disaster. Level 1is the last stage that involves full activation to conduct response and recovery operations towards the accident. This stage requires all hands-on in responding to a disaster.
For example, a situation involving flooding requires a timely and quick response to deal with the problem. This will include an activation process involving the three levels. First, it will consist of the observation of weather patterns that may point out an impeding downpour that could result in floods. Second, the weather patterns will be closely scrutinized to determine areas that will be affected and offer predictions and warnings. Last, there will be the dissemination of information regarding the advancing of the heavy rains and the expected course of action to be followed to avoid loss of life.
Phases of Emergency Management
In dealing with emergencies, there are four phases of emergency management, namely; hazard mitigation, emergency response, disaster recovery, and emergency preparedness. These phases are all critical in responding to emergencies since disasters are inevitable.
Hazard mitigation involves plans to prevent or reduce the extent of damage and disorder in people’s lives. (Awasthy, 1999). In a flood situation, hazard mitigation requires efforts to keep away people from the way of floods by relocating them to safer grounds that are not easily reached by waves, the building of dykes in flood-prone areas.
The emergency response includes a wide range of activities like issuing and distributing predictions and warnings, removing people to other areas, deploying responders, salvaging, and rescuing survivors. (Awasthy, 1999) among others. This involves the actual reaction to the disaster by swinging into action to save lives and property. Before floods occur, warnings are usually sent out to those living in prone areas urging them to relocate to safer grounds. Personnel is also put on standby to respond to the situation effectively if it gets out of hand to prevent loss of life and are engaged entirely when the condition worsens. The material resources are essential in meeting the needs of people affected by floods. Shelters, food, water, clothes, and medical supplies are crucial things needed by the affected during floods. This is because everyone is involved in saving lives first and not goods. Most of these things are carried away or submerged, therefore rendered useless at the time, and they are essential for survival and making lives easier for the affected.
2.3. “The recovery of disasters involves activities relating to the re-establishment of social and economic pre-disaster patterns, the provision of financial assistance and other services, the replacement and reconstruction of damaged and destroyed and business properties and in some instances determining who should take responsibility for the disaster” ( Awasthy, 1999,). Once floods strike, they disrupt people’s lives and destroy their property. Life comes to a standstill, as they are concerned with getting to safety, leaving all activities they engage in. No event goes on, be it work, school, or businesses since the premises are either destroyed or submerged underwater. The recovery in floods would require draining of water, repairing buildings, and restoring services like health care and education. Compensation to victims can be useful to help them settle within the shortest time possible and feel no much pinch that could have arisen without compensation.
Emergency preparedness is the last phase in emergency management and comprises actions taken to address predicted problems of emergency response (Awasthy, 1999). These include actions preparing formulating disaster policies, training personnel to respond to the crisis, holding public education forums, and maintaining standby human, material, and financial resources. The procedures help to prevent loss of life and lessen the impact of floods once they occur. The fact that human capital is readily available in such cases, as well as material resources, help in coordinating efforts to evacuate people on time, reach the affected more swiftly and provide them with material needs and services like health care to treat the injured and prevent the spread of diseases that could arise during floods like outbreaks of water-borne diseases.
Scope of Operations
The State of Florida 2012 Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan carries out its mandate within a specific range or scope. Among the different extents in the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan is the extent of operations. This deals mainly with supporting local response agencies by coordinating state, federal, and interstate resources, including 14 of the 18 state Emergency Support Functions (ESF). All plans, regardless of their structures, have strengths and weaknesses. The program has its most robust strength: the delegation of duty into smaller units that are autonomous. This ensures a clear separation of powers and equal allocation of resources to carry out stipulated responsibilities. The plan also has its weaknesses. The main one is the limitation whereby the Federal Government has more power than the State Government and therefore rendered powerless in calling for help in terms of relief supplies and financial assistance (Pinkowski, 2008). This points to a significant flaw in the plan and can result in considerable loss and damage during disasters. This is because every minute counts in an emergency operation, and any unnecessary delay could lead to massive injuries that could otherwise be prevented. For example, in New Orleans, in 2005, the local government was overwhelmed by the disaster they faced. Please, to the government by the mayor, were met with only promises, and no immediate action was taken ( Pinkowski, 2008). This exposes flaws in the system whereby neither the mayor nor the governor had the powers to summon the military. Yet, being on the ground, they understood what was needed to save lives and minimize damage.
Assumptions of the Plan
Before the plan was drawn, hypotheses were formulated to aid the directing of the program. The premises needed justifications as well as projected successes of the policy. Some of the critical assumptions reached included; the first assumption is that emergencies are local but their respective governments but may need assistance from the Federal Government. The second assumption is that there are disasters that people can be aware of before occurrences like hurricanes and others that can happen without notice like terrorist attacks. The last one is that the most significant asset during emergencies and disasters are the survivors themselves. They are first on the scene and offer instant assistance to other survivors. The first assumption was included to empower individual states to deal with emergencies before the national government intervened, and it is essential because it will guarantee timely intervention. The second assumption was meant to put people on notice that disasters are imminent, therefore the need to be ready. This is central because it ensures that people are always on the alert and know how to respond to emergencies. The last assumption is meant to empower locals in the area of disaster to be ready. This is because before external help arrives, they are responsible for saving lives around them since they are at the heart of the accident.
Primary Agency and Primary Responsibilities
In responding to emergencies, different units work together to handle any situation effectively. Communication is one such unit that falls under the Emergency Support Function. The primary agency in the communications unit is the Florida Department of Management Services, and its primary responsibilities include providing telecommunications, radio and satellite support, prioritizing and delivering communications resources to state and local agencies, assisting in restoring local communications networks and coordinating with communication carriers and federal agencies regarding service restoration (CEMP, 2008).
The scale of the plan is limited to disseminating information to relevant agencies or authorities. Some of the objectives of the communications unit include; making decisions to activate the Alternate State Emergency Operations Center, notification to deploy State Emergency Response Team, information to Camp Blanding Joint Training Center (CBJTC) to enable Transition Team to be ready the Alternate State Emergency Operations Plan and ensure the state Emergency team Liaison arrives at the Alternate State Emergency Operations Center.
The communication units work in close ties with the Logistics Section and Information Technology Branch. This organization ensures an exchange of vital information between these units for efficiency in responding to the disaster. Complications are bound to arise, especially given that the state communications systems are more elaborate than the federal ones. This poses a challenge in that the federal government will need authorization from the state to carry out some functions, resulting in delays in handling disasters.
There are specific actions under the communication unit that involve mitigation, response, recovery, and preparedness. Relief in communication may include hazard warning systems, Community education and outreach necessary to foster loss reduction statewide, and post-disaster documentation of cost avoidance due to previous mitigation measures. Response during a crisis can involve setting up a toll-free number for victims to ask for help. Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are set up for victims to get information about aid and the recovery process. Recovery involves briefing the affected communities and identifying and reporting local unmet human needs and assisting survivors. Preparedness consists of coming up with systems and applications, maintain data and application design and development that can be used as tools for decision-makers and responders to make decisions.
Having laid out strategies to respond to disasters is a plus in handling emergencies when they strike. This is because people are not caught entirely unawares, thus saving lives and reducing impact, unlike if there was none. Weaknesses are bound to be there, especially in today’s world, where things are changing rapidly. However hard we try we cannot effectively tackle any disaster to the core due to these emerging issues like terrorism and other technological advancements.
- Awasthy, A. (2009). Disaster management: warning response and community relocation. New Delhi: Global India Publications. CEMP. (n.d.). CEMP. Retrieved June 1, 2014, fromhttp://www.floridadisaster.org/documents/CEMP/2012/2012%20State%20CEMP%20Basic%20Plan%20-%20Final.pdf
- Marchand, M. (2009). Modelling coastal vulnerability design and evaluation of a vulnerability model for tropical storms and floods. Amsterdam: IOS Press.
- Pinkowski, J. (2008). Disaster management handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
- Schneid, T. D., & Collins, L. (2001). Disaster management and preparedness. Boca Raton, Fla. Lewis Publishers.
- The Emergency Function Support Annex. (n.d.). The Emergency Function Support Annex. Retrieved June 1, 2014, from http://www.floridadisaster.org/documents/CEMP/2010/ESF%20TOC.pdf