Maryland Emergency Management Agency is tasked with coordination of federal, state as well as local and private resources towards disaster management. The agency is in place following the understanding that emergency can arise at any time and result in a massive loss of lives and properties in the absence of adequate management measures. Therefore, the role of the agency in disaster management includes the phases of emergency preparedness, response during emergencies, and recovery along with mitigation measures. the agency’s involvement in all the phases of emergency management includes the mobilization of resources towards training respondents and equipping communities in preparation for emergencies, along with the active involvement during emergency response, recovery, and mitigation.
Keywords: Preparedness, response, recovery, mitigation, hazard, emergency
Emergency and hazardous situations arise from both human-made and natural causes. The range of natural causes includes floods, earthquakes, and landslides, while human-made causes that result in hazards include terror attacks and wars. Despite the source of an emergency, the overall outcomes include loss of properties and life, with implications including damage to the environment. The purpose of emergency management is to minimize the damage to property and life while managing the adverse outcomes of disasters (Maryland Emergency Management Agency, 2019). Mitigation is a subset of emergency management. While emergency management involves the overall process of organizing and managing resources towards humanitarian considerations in emergency aimed at reducing harmful effects of hazards, mitigation only plays a portion of the emergency management process (Baltimore City Planning Commission, 2013). Emergency management provides an avenue through which local communities can contribute to the reduction or the elimination of long and short term risks that result from natural or human-made hazards.
MEMA involvement in emergency management
Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is a state agency operating within the Maryland Military Department to coordinate the federal, state as well as local and private efforts in managing disasters and emergencies. According to article 14 of public safety article in the code of Maryland, the agency has authority to create their management offices which cater to emergency management operations under the four sections of preparedness for emergencies, response, mitigation, along with recovery (Berke, Smith & Lyles, 2012).
The first phase of emergency management in which the Maryland Emergency Management Agency participates is emergency and disaster preparedness. The emergency management process includes phases in which the agency plans for disasters, organizes individuals and societies, in addition to providing equipment and resources (Baltimore City Planning Commission, 2013). Additional measures constitute exercises and evaluation of response measures with the outcome of correcting any deviations from the expected outcomes in an emergency. The agency runs the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) with implications that flow into the Maryland Joint Operations Center to facilitate emergency preparedness in the state.
In the second phase of emergency management, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency takes actions that include coordinating and managing the emergency resources in the emergency response phase. The resources include human resources, equipment along with supplies that different teams can utilize during emergencies. Through the FEMA Public Assistance program, the agency obtains resource and administration support for emergency response (Berke, Smith & Lyles, 2012). Baltimore and the National Capital Region are the state urban areas that oversee the external participation in emergency response. The agency utilizes the all-hazard approach with measures that ensure safety for life and property. Ultimately, the response is a phase of reaction following an emergency or disaster.
In the third phase of emergency management, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency is involved in the emergency recovery process. While most measures after hazards and emergency constitute restoration to the pre-emergency state while ignoring the possibility of recurrence, the recovery process by the agency includes measures stabilize communities, minimize the damages and loss of human life, while bringing a degree of normalcy. The recovery phase includes measures that prevent excessive damage in the event of future recurrence of the hazard situation.
The third phase of recovery in an emergency includes mitigation measures in the bid to minimize life and property destruction (Maryland Emergency Management Agency, 2019). The mitigation efforts by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency include structural and non-structural actions that influence the features of buildings, areas, and societies to prevent future damages from disasters.
Challenges to Disaster Management
Hazard mitigation is achieved through the various mitigation tools that aim at breaking the hazard cycle. Some of the tools for hazard mitigation include landscape protection through building and land codes as the first tool. The second tool constitutes policy formulation in which the agency encourages the increased commitment of local planners towards hazard prevention and elimination. The third tool in hazard mitigation is landscape protection with measures that include zoning ordinances for the local communities (Crystal, 2009). While emergency management is essential for hazard prevention, there exist various factors that impede the process. One such factor is the replication of the pre-disaster conditions to restore a sense of normalcy in the community. The restoration of normalcy is a challenge because it creates a false sense of security and ignores the inclusion of preventative measures. Additional impediments to emergency management include the absence of expertise for multi-hazard risk assessment (Crystal, 2009). A third impediment to hazard mitigation is the need for communities to sustain momentum in hazard mitigation by having clear and updated plan implementations that require a compliance update every five years.
Emergency management provides an avenue through which local communities can contribute to the reduction or the elimination of long and short term risks that result from natural or human-made hazards. According to the information from the research, I believe that emergency management requires the participation of all members of the community. While agencies such as the Maryland Emergency Management Agency are in place to coordinate the measures of risk reduction in an emergency, local communities have an important role towards ensuring their safety in emergencies (Crystal, 2009). Therefore, some changes in emergency management should include the increase in participation of residents so that they understand and implement the measures towards preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. The participation of community members through adequate training and equipping can allow them to minimize the risk to their lives and properties when disasters strike.
Baltimore City Planning Commission (2013). CITY OF BALTIMORE Disaster Preparedness and Planning Project, Baltimore City Planning Commission, Retrieved from http://mitigationguide.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Baltimore-HMP.pdf
Berke, P., Smith, G. & Lyles, W. (2012). Planning for Resiliency: Evaluation of State Hazard Mitigation Plans under the Disaster Mitigation Act. NATURAL HAZARDS REVIEW © ASCE American Society of Civil Engineers pages 139-149.
Crystal, P., (2009). Barriers to mitigation: Incentives and the influence of social networks. San Jose State University SJSU Scholar Works, Pages 5-84.
Maryland Emergency Management Agency (2019). Maryland Emergency Management Agency, 5401 Rue Saint Lo Drive, Reisterstown, MD 21136, Retrieved from https://mema.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx