Home » Conceptualization of Academic and Professional Disciplines » Whole Community Emergency Management: Was I Suppose to Have Noticed a Difference?

Whole Community Emergency Management: Was I Suppose to Have Noticed a Difference?


"There's nothing in the streets/ Looks any different to me/ And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye" The Who- "Won't Get Fooled Again"

“There’s nothing in the streets/Looks any different to me/And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye”    The Who- “Won’t Get Fooled Again”


Imagine my surprise when I learned recently we have been living in the promise land of Whole Community Emergency Management since 2011 and somehow I had neither known nor noticed any difference!

I do not know why, but I do not recall much being made of this document in 2011, nor do I recall hearing much made of it since then.  I still hear about the National Response Framework, National Incident Management System, and even occasionally the National Recovery Framework….but what has happened to Whole Community Emergency Management?  Was it really meant as a paradigm shift, or simply meant to give the appearance of a major change in approach to federal emergency management?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but something seems just a little suspect when FEMA starts coining terms to promote their “NEW!….IMPROVED!” emergency management.  We already have Comprehensive Emergency Management, Integrated  Emergency Management, and even (if you pay attention to what is going on in other parts of the world…) Integrated Disaster Risk Management: do we really need another?  And if I wasn’t already suspicious enough, there seems to be something rather strange about FEMA claiming the idea of community-based emergency management as if this is something new and original, when scholars and researchers have been advocating community-based approaches since before there was a FEMA.

Would I be alone in thinking there is something amusingly odd, even ironic, about FEMA teaching “bottom-up” emergency management to state and local emergency management?  But there will be nothing amusing to those at the community level, who have embraced and put their energies into collaborative programs of emergency and disaster management thinking this is the change they have waited for, when they discover that this new and improved version of emergency management did not come with systems to  make state-level and federal level assistance faster and more responsive in addressing their needs.  Go ask some of those still rebuilding after Sandy how responsive this Whole Community Emergency Management has worked out for them.  Or could it be it no longer applies after the disaster strikes?

The simple fact is that calling EM  “Comprehensive” or “Whole Community” or whatever catchy term someone with marketing flair thinks will catch on does not mean very much.  What you call your version of EM isn’t important.  In any form of professional practice, what you call the approach is not what matters.  I don’t care what name my lawyer or my surgeon gives to his particular brand of lawyering or surgery: I want him to know what he is doing, and to do it well.

I don’t care what it is called, the important question is whether it is “good” emergency management, both in idea AND in practice.







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