Emergency Preparedness and Response

Subject: Environment
Pages: 6
Words: 1587
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Bachelor

In cases of natural disasters or terrorist attacks, the federal government agency FEMA, under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), leads the response efforts among states and localities. Given the similar level of response needed for natural disasters and terrorist attacks, alongside the lack of resources available in most localities, it is beneficial that the response is centralized. Since its inception in the early 2000s, DHS has sought to consolidate federal response plans and establish a national system for incident management, both of which allow tight-knit collaboration between federal, state, and local officials as well as competent distribution of resources (White et al., 2010). While the federalization of national emergency preparedness and response does create effectiveness and efficiency, it has led to a number of economic, social, and legal implications as well as continuing to have some gaps in the system which can bring devasting impacts.


The National Response Framework (NRF) was established by the Stafford Act which established the various programs and operations which the federal government can provide assistance during disaster response and preparedness. The Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the authority to prepare a Federal Response Plan (1992), meant to maximize available resources. In 2003, under the directive of President Bush, and now under the jurisdiction of DHS, FEMA issued an updated National Response Plan (NRP), using a comprehensive all discipline all-hazard hazard approach. However, despite NRP being in place, the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was severely problematic. This has resulted in the Post-Katrina Act which result the d in the amendment of NRP, creating oversight, and creating Sections 642 and 643 which gave powers to the President to develop and consistently update the national response under the guidance of FEMA (White et al., 2010).

In response to the Post-Katrina Act, the DHS developed and published the National Response Framework (NRF) in 2008 which has been in effect since as the primary document to the national emergency preparedness and response. The NRF establishes the doctrine for a unified response across all levels of government and sectors of economy and community to all types of disasters or hazards regardless of origin. It establishes key responsibilities for all phases of emergency management, with the focus on short-term recovery. The response on the national level is meant to be scalable and flexible, describing best practices and distribution of roles for a variety of incidents ranging from local to large-scale natural disasters and terrorist attacks (White et al., 2010).

It is important to note that the NRF takes a bottom-up approach, with local officials developing plans based on specifics of their community, using federal guidance, and coordinating resources with nearby jurisdictions before federal involvement is necessary. If local resources fail, states can utilize their resources, and finally, when state resources are depleted or unable to cope, federal assistance is requested by governors. Sometimes federal assistance comes alongside a national declaration of emergency by the President, but the framework provides power to the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide and coordinate federal response resources and activities in a wide range of incidents without the need for Presidential declarations. The presidential declaration simply triggers the Stafford Act and opens up the President’s Disaster Relief Fund management by FEMA and a wide range of other resources while eliminating bureaucratic hurdles in the short-term, necessary for rapid response (White et al., 2010).

Economic Implications and Impacts

Economic data plays a critical role in disaster management and response, analyzing previous incidents and assesthe sing impact of any potential future ones. Direct economic losses from natural disasters increase over time, particularly higher property, and general financial damages. Disasters typically have indirect impacts as well, showing a negative effect on GDP growth rate, with whole sectors of the economy being affected due to a decrease in economic activity and output (Botzen et al., 2019). As part of the NRF, economic impacts of disasters are used to address various issues in resource allocation and disaster avoidance as part of emergency preparedness.

The NRF is consistently being updated with contthe ribution of micro and macroeconomic analysis which provides officials and experts with the dynamics of economic costs and impacts on activity that are a result of disasters. Some industries, such as construction, insurance, and security typically benefit as a result of a disaster or terrorist attacks. Through comprehension of the total economic impacts of disasters, resource allocation can be more efficient to serve those in need and there is greater information for decision-making and mitigation strategies. However, a negative trend that has been notable since the inception of the federal disaster response is that local governments and communities are not seeking their own independent solutions. The localities are not finding or saving funding for their disaster response needs, with elements such as private sector insurance, due to the perceived certainty that federal funds allocated by FEMA will always be available (Clower, n.d.).

Social Implications and Impacts

A study found that the role of development and political institutions plays a role in predetermining disaster impacts. Higher income nations experience fewer fatalities since the better preparedness of the institutions is helpful to prevention (Botzen et al., 2019). A national framework contributes significantly to community emergency preparedness and capabilities. It has four major objectives of defining and outlining public preparedness, identifying barriers to engaging with the public, developing communication with the public, and highlighting best practices for emergency preparedness (Noftsinger et al., 2016). This is highly important from a social perspective as a centralized, well-developed, and properly executed message and risk communication are critical for optimal preparation under the NRF that has previously been highly disparate and producing conflicting messages from various levels of government or agencies.

Emergency management and preparedness research found that there is an inherent correlation between public awareness and positive disaster outcomes. There are various opportunities to educate and prepare the public, including through coordination of messages and initiating social change that will greatly enhance preparedness and likely improve both survivability and the effectiveness of response efforts. The NRF introduced various efforts to influence sustained change through a systems approach in the attempt to communicate emergency preparedness. Guiding local, state, and federal agencies, the framework sought to enhance risk communication, both in long-term preparedness and short-term prior to disasters. This was successful on behalf of DHS in terms of improving public relations and trust, which would make the public more susceptible to information and directions from officials and improving disaster resilience. It is in all comparisons better than haste communication, disorganization, and incompetent planning which was in place prior national response frameworks, having little impact on community behavior or disaster resilience (Coppola & Maloney, 2009).

Crisis management and public emergency preparedness and response are inherently legal concepts guided by the public emergency law such as the Stafford Act, Homeland Security Act, FEMA provisions and other various legislation and executive orders that are involved. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Supremacy clause places federal laws and regulations in precedence over state and local laws. Therefore, the Stafford Act, the Post-Katrina Acts, and executive orders give broad power to the President and federal agencies such as FEMA in operating on public and private property in any prevention or response efforts to disasters. The NRF and other federal level frameworks encourage localities and states to develop their own plans and legislation for emergency preparedness and response. Oftentimes, these frameworks have to be developed and approved alongside forming Performance Partnership Agreements (PPA) with FEMA in order to receive federal funding. Legally, state and local governments must be aware and compliant with various federal regulations ranging from OSHA to EPA to communications and energy. Under legal precedent, emergency management in state and local levels have the duty to plan for disaster under the NIMS and NRF. If emergency management at state and local levels fail to plan or to follow emergency operation plans (EOP), including ignoring federal mandates, then there is legal liability for failure present (Wilson & McCreight, 2012).


As a foundational emergency management doctrine, the NRF is highly effective due to its flexibility, scalability, and adaptability. The framework clearly outlines structures, roles, and responsibilities for all levels of government, agencies, and emergency management officials which can be implemented in response to threats or hazards. The flexibility allows for both comprehensive as well as specific and scaled responses to deliver the necessary resources and level of coordination. The large and unprecedented scale of natural disasters, pandemics, and other threats in recent years has highlighted the importance of emergency preparedness and response operations.

It is evident that resilient capabilities of governments and communities have to be built from the ground up. Without the ability of sustaining and restoring community lifelines – services critical to operations (economic, financial, and cultural), then the result will be a series of cascading failures since these community lifelines are interdependent in many ways. For example, electricity and communication within the community rely on each other for function, with major damage to one will disrupt the other. This is in combination with complex supply chains that modern urban communities rely on for safe operations. The NRF seeks to establish a framework which provides guidelines and enhances cooperation to the protection of lives and communities, encompassing these economic, social, and legal concepts. By building disaster resilience, first and foremost through emergency preparedness and response efforts, the NRF achieves the capabilities at the national level of guiding and overseeing a systematic approach that was encompassed in its doctrine.


Botzen, W. J. W., Deschenes, O., & Sanders, M. (2019). The economic impacts of natural disasters: A review of models and empirical studies. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 13(2), 167–188. Web.

Clower, T. L. (n.d.). Economic applications in disaster research, mitigation, and planning. Web.

Coppola, D. P., & Maloney, E. K. (2009). Communicating emergency preparedness: Strategies for creating a disaster resilient public. CRC Press.

Noftsinger, J., Newbold, K., & Wheeler, J. (2007). Understanding homeland security: Policy, perspectives, and paradoxes. Palgrave Macmillan.

White, R., Markowski, T., & Collins, K. (2010). The United States Department of Homeland Security: An overview (2nd ed.). Pearson Learning Solutions.

Wilson, L. R., & McCreight, R. (2012). Public emergency laws & regulations: Understanding constraints and opportunities. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 9(2), 1-16. Web.