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The Four Phases of Emergency Management Essay Example

Warfield (2014) defines emergency management as a comprehensive process that involves four distinct phases: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. The development of the phase-based model came about as a result of the need to establish the key elements of an effective and extensive emergency management. The phases were also developed based on the understanding that the occurrence of disasters is ongoing and that disasters often take time from the moment when the danger signs are observed, the occurrence of the disaster to the moment when victims of a disaster are helped in their recovery from the implications of a disaster.

This understanding explains why emergency management programs are organized into phases with respect to the life cycle of a disaster. The division of emergency management programs into different phases helps ensure proper planning and pragmatic finance and resource allocation. There is a relationship between the first and the last phases of disaster management. In this regard, the phases take place as a circular process. Disasters are repetitive in nature and the chances that they can be properly dealt with when they occur is heavily dependent on the precautionary measures taken. The first two of the phases, disaster mitigation and prepardness, should be implemented prior to the occurrence of a disaster while the other two phases, response and recovery, take place after the occurrence of a disaster.

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Emergency Management Phases

As mentioned earlier, emergency management refers to an extensive and integrated program of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Emergency management initiatives are affected jointly by different organizations, governments and the international community based on the understanding that there is no single private entity that has immunity to disasters (Warfield, 2014). The collective responsibility undertaken during disasters is advocated for because no segment of the community can effectively respond to a major disaster without the help of other communities or organizations. In the event that a disaster strikes, people come together to help those that are affected by it. In such a situation, the community can be divided into two distinct groups: the victims of the disaster that are desperate for help and those that are capable of providing the required help.

Considering the four phases of emergency management, disaster management initiatives have a number of goals. Disasters result in situations that require an immediate response so that a stability is restored. As such, one of the main goals of disaster management is to reduce or eradicate the loses that are suffered as a result of disasters. Loses are understood in the broad sense to refer to the bodily harm suffered as a result of a disaster or the loss or damage of physical assets. The second goal of disaster management is to facilitate a timely response by victims of a disaster to the possible occurrence of a disaster. This goal intends to ensure that appropriate measures are taken before the occurrence of a disaster to enable potential victims to seek refuge or prevent possible losses from such unfortunate events. Emergency management also seeks to facilitate fast and effective physical and psychological healing from the consequences of a disaster after it has occurred (Warfield, 2014).

The phases of emergency management exhibit some similarities. For example, mitigation and preparedness are similar while response and recovery also have some similarities. Despite the similarities, Warfield (2014) stated that the four phases are distinct in their ways of responding and assisting in the process of emergency management. Relevant measures and processes are put in place to ensure that the diverse implications of disasters related to the well-being of the communities and their property are curbed. This paper gives an extensive discussion of the four phases of emergency management involved in the disaster cycle.

Mitigation Phase

The phase of emergency management occurs before a disaster takes place. During the mitigation phase, precautionary measures are taken to help reduce the harm suffered in future in case of a disaster (Dasgupta, 2007). It is the designing phase where necessary actions are formulated and reviewed with the aim of reducing the effects of a possible emergency. Mitigation is done through a wide range of activities based on the foreseen disaster. In some situations, the concerned authorities initiate a public awareness campaigns to provide education to the community. In some cases, the mitigation phase can involve acquisition of proper insurance coverage, building codes and zoning and conducting vulnerability analysis.

In some situations, the measures taken during the mitigation phase can help to prevent the occurrence of a disaster all together. In a situation when the emergency is inevitable, mitigation activities still hold as they make the impact relatively bearable. For example, the classic mitigation measures in the United States include controls on land use with an aim of checking the utilization of potential danger zones. This mitigation measure is mostly taken to ensure effective floodplain management. Barrier construction is also practiced to prevent disaster forces. Levees are constructed to reduce the chances of flooding as snow sheds are also constructed on railroads. To prevent the occurrence of avalanches, appropriate techniques that collect the snow are used to solve the problem of the accumulation of snow.

Other measures taken in the United States include the enhancement of disaster resistance of structures through building codes and the reduction of financial loss caused by disaster through provision of insurance coverage. Another strategy is taking appropriate steps to exercise control on rebuilding after the event. As observed in these examples, some mitigation measures are general while others are disaster specific. The measures are taken in accordance to the characteristics of a given locality and its level of vulnerability to a particular emergency occurrence (Dasgupta, 2007).

Effective mitigation relies heavily on the knowledge that is acquired over time concerning the appropriate measures used at the national and the local level during development planning. In most cases, the measures that are ultimately taken are decided after an extensive analysis of the risk factors and brainstorming the necessary precautionary measures to be taken to avoid earlier or anticipated emergencies. The level of efficiency of mitigation measures depends on the quality of the information or the level of awareness about the potential emergency occurrence and the relevance of the measures that are taken to counteract the possible hazard. According to Dasgupta (2007), the mitigation phase and the entire emergency management cycle involve a revision of public policies and the development of plans to correct situations that result from the occurrence of disasters or to mitigate the implications that emergencies have on the community, property and infrastructure. The mitigation phase also provides an opportunity for some areas of development planning and ideas to be reviewed. For example, appropriate mitigation goals and objectives can be formulated; effective mitigation actions can be established and prioritized as the strategy to be used in implementing the measures is developed. In addition, mitigation involves the documentation of the process involved in mitigation planning. It is essential to understand that emergencies can occur at any time. As such, the mitigation processes should be reviewed in advance so as to facilitate an effective response to a disaster when it occurs. It is important to note that local communities have the capacity to prevent serious emergencies and disasters that can result in massive loss of property and cause serious harm. Through effective communication, members of local communities can be empowered as steps are taken to create awareness on how to prevent disasters.

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Preparation Phase

This phase also occurs before a disaster strikes. In most cases, preparedness activities are implemented after observing the warning signs. They are mainly intended to ensure that the community is ready to respond to a pending emergency. The phase involves activities that are introduced by organizations, governments, individuals and agencies with an aim of saving lives, limiting the damage suffered as a result of a disaster and enhancing the response operations to be executed when a disaster strikes. The phase also involves recruiting people to take part in emergency services along with emergency planning, initiation of mutual aid agreements, training vulnerable citizens and emergency response personnel and conducting public education on the possible threat. Activities at this phase also involve making budgetary allocations for the acquisition of evacuation vehicles and equipment, boosting emergency aid supplies and enhancing communication networks. Additionally, this phase involves the construction of emergency control centers, training personnel by running disaster exercises and assessing readiness for a disaster. Emergency preparedness seeks to ensure that the local residents and the concerned authorities are ready to respond effectively to unforeseen emergencies as the programs involved help strengthen the community, governments, organizations and aid agencies. Local communities, organizations, governments and all stakeholders should work together to respond to an emergency (Dasgupta, 2007).

Preparedness can be done by conducting training activities or through the application of warning systems to sensitize those that are exposed to the impending disaster on how they need to respond in the event of a disaster. The efficiency of the preparedness largely depends on the nature of federal and local development plans. The planning phase is similar to the mitigation phase. That it, its effectiveness is also determined by the level of accessibility to and awareness about information on hazards, risk factors and the measures to be taken to counter the risks. Effective preparedness also requires that the government agencies, the public and non-governmental organizations have access to the available information to get ready for an emergency. Stakeholders also need to develop action plans at this phase of readiness to face any disaster. For example, stakeholders can develop and revise disaster plans and conduct hazard analysis, they can write mutual aid operational plans and prepare response personnel through training. Other possible action plans include enhancing public information and communication systems and doing exercises to assess the validly of the planning process.

Basically, the goal of emergency preparedness programs is to attain the adequate levels of readiness necessary to effectively respond to any possible emergency situation. To achieve this goal, measures are taken to empower the technical and managerial competence of local communities, organizations and governments. The strategies that are put in place are referred to as the logical preparedness necessary to respond to disasters. The processes are facilitated by the availability of procedures and response mechanisms, conducting rehearsals, awareness creation through public education and developing short and long-term strategies. Preparedness involves putting all measures in place to reduce the harm suffered as a result of an emergency. It can involve boosting strategic food reserves, water supply, equipment, medicines and other basic needs. Dasgupta (2007) suggests that such reserves help in cases where national or local catastrophes strike and when it is necessary to provide for the victims of such emergencies.

Emergency preparedness goes beyond the physical items and skill based training. It also involves psychological readiness for a possible occurrence of a disaster. Psychological preparedness and mental health preparedness services are given by mental health professionals that serve in different non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross. The mental health preparedness is given to victims of disasters and they are extended to the entire community as well as those that serve the victims of a disaster. Some health organizations offer services that are specifically tendered to help victims of disaster recover from the trauma that comes with experiencing a disaster. For example, CDC has established a website to help disaster victims receive psychological and mental health assistance. Some events can have long-term mental and psychological disturbances. Such situations call for extra efforts whereby the victims that exhibit symptoms like excessive irritability, worry, crying, the desire to be left alone often and fearful feelings are given counseling.

Emergency preparedness initiatives can vary depending on the target victims. According to Sezhiyan and Sundar (2007), the initiatives that are taken to prepare children for a possible emergency differ from the steps taken to prepare adults for the same event. Similarly, people with disabilities and those with other special needs require specialized emergency preparation services. The disability is regarded differently by particular organizations. In some cases, organizations give opportunities for the disabled to gain from some social security benefits. The benefits can be given throughout irrespective of the possibility of an emergency. The purpose of this is to allow these special groups to operate with ease and to make those with disabilities feel that their particular needs are being met. At the same time, the disabled and those with special needs may require specific emergency preparations. For example, to facilitate evacuation and rescue processes, organizations like the Red Cross provide the disabled with special charging devices used to charge medical devices like motorized wheel chairs. There can be cases of communication breakdown as a result of language barrier. To ensure effective communication in such special cases, measures are taken to establish special communication systems that help facilitate communication between individuals that are exposed to a disaster and the responders.

Response Phase

This is the first phase that occurs after a disaster. The response phase involves the actions that are taken immediately after an emergency has occurred and after suffering the short-term impacts of the emergency occurrence. Response aims to assist victims of a disaster and help them recover physically and mentally (Sezhiyan and Sundar, 2007). For example, after a disaster has occurred, members of the community, government agencies and non-governmental organizations work to rescue victims. They conduct joint searches for the victims and rescue them from the dangerous situations in which they are. In addition, the agencies can work together with the local community to provide emergency relief to victims. Due to the understanding that disasters are inevitable, primary response teams are often assigned before an emergency even occurs. In most cases, the primary responders are the first to arrive at the scene once an emergency has taken place. Examples of primary responders are fire emergency departments, rescue squads, emergency medical services and the police department. After the first responders have arrived, some jurisdictions may assign a given department to serve as a back-up to the first responders. This is the phase when humanitarian organizations come to the forefront. The response phase calls for efficient coordination and cooperation between federal and local agencies and the agencies that operate within the affected communities. In the United States, this often involves the formation of a disaster response team, which is given the duty of coordinating, communicating, commanding and controlling the federal agencies that respond to an emergency.

Emergencies have serious implications on the economic, psychological and social life of its victims. As such, Sezhiyan and Sundar (2007) suggests that response actions involve assigning resources and emergency procedures based on plans to preserve life, property, and the environment. Response activities also help in restoring the social, economic, and political structures of the community immediately after an emergency has occurred, when the impacts of the disaster are felt and to immediately restore essential services that are cut shot as a result of a disaster. Actions taken during the response phase are focused on the particular threat that the community faces. For example, in the event of floods, efforts are made to rescue victims through evacuation, and provide them with temporary shelter, food, clothing and medical care. In the process of responding to a disaster, efforts are made to recover the lifeline services that were affected by the disaster.

The resources that are required to respond to a disaster are often limited and insufficient. Therefore, the response phase is characterized by calls for donations that are made to local organizations, the government, non-governmental organizations and the internal community (Bhattacharya, 2012). In most cases, the stakeholders cooperate to ensure that victims of a disaster are helped out of their unfortunate state. There are some large disasters that the local community would struggle to respond to without the help of donors. Due to the benefits of economies of scale, donations play a significant role in helping the local communities cope with the disaster. In such cases, efforts are made to ensure that fraud is avoided so that monetary donations actually make it to those that are affected by an event.

Recovery Phase

According to Bhattacharya (2012), the recovery phase is the final phase of emergency management. This occurs after the disaster has struck and its consequences already suffered. The phase involves repairing the damaged infrastructure and restoring essential services. It also involves reconstruction aimed at creating a stable situation after a disaster. The recovery phase can be short term or long term depending on the magnitude of harm and loss suffered as a result of a disaster. Resources must be mobilized to help victims regain essential services that can get them recover. The recovery phase involves activities like setting up temporary housing facilities for victims that are left homeless as a result of a disaster. As they settle into temporary shelter, the victims regain a stable state of mind that enables them continue with their lives.

The recovery phase can be very hectic when the disaster is of a massive scale. The general public has to be actively involved in the processes initiated to help victims get back on their feet. Many emergency disasters result in victims who need medical care. As such, recovery processes can involve the provision of medical services to victims to restore their health and enable them to work again. The recovery phase goes on until such a time that the community is rebuilt or when a state of normalcy is regained. Throughout the recovery phase, people are highly informed about the risk factors that may have resulted in the disaster. Therefore, people tend to utilize the available opportunities to boost prevention of similar occurrences. The aim is to enhance their level of preparedness to respond to such emergencies. Such an awareness and preparedness is helpful in reducing the community’s vulnerability to a disaster. It is at this phase that policy makers can also make reports on the lessons learnt from a disaster. Such documented reports are helpful in preparing for future disasters of a similar nature. An example of an adverse disaster that took its victims a long time to recover from was Hurricane Katrina. Victims of the event still struggle to regain a state of normalcy long after the occurrence.

Disasters are received differently by different countries. Developing countries suffer much financial and general resource strain as a result of the occurrence of a disaster. In some situations, recovery efforts do not succeed in restoring the affected infrastructure to its former state. Governments of developing countries find difficulties in allocating their limited resources to help victims of disasters regain their normal state of life. Developed countries may find it relatively easy to reconstruct or repair the damaged infrastructure due to the existence of a stable economy (Bhattacharya, 2012). In both cases, recovery actions are considered to be long-term measures that are taken long after a disaster’s immediate impacts have been felt. Although the efforts may not fully restore a state of normalcy, the actions that are taken at the phase are essential in stabilizing the effected community.

In the United States, the federal government, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in particular, steps in for emergency disaster recovery. Recovery is also received positively in developing courtiers as every recovery marks an aspect of redevelopment or development. It is based on this understanding that disasters are at times said to have a positive impact on infrastructural development in developing countries. As such, the recovery phase is a justification of the fact that some development initiatives can result from the damages that occur due to a disaster. Essentially, recovery activities include cleaning up the disaster debris and giving financial assistance to individual victims of a disaster or even to the governments. It also entails the reconstruction of affected roads, bridges and other key facilities, and provision of sustained healthcare for the affected human and animal population. The actions target to ensure restoration of normal lifeline services, restore victims’ mental health and provide pastoral care. The recovery phase has long term goals that are completed in different stages (Warfield, 2014).

Recovery efforts can first be directed to the most affected and highly vulnerable victims of a disaster. Every disaster should also be considered a unique occurrence that necessitates extensive assessment so that in the future it is possible to know how to set the most appropriate strategic plan for a specific disaster. In the initial stages of recovery, the aid agencies work closely with the local community and non-governmental organizations in conducting a needs assessment and obtaining relevant information. In doing this, the stakeholders get to know the available resources, the recovery partners and the value of assets that have been lost in the disaster. The recovery stage rarely follows a defined timeline.

There are several processes that occur as communities recover and start rebuilding their lives after the disaster. The processes include:

Search and Rescue

Search and rescue is the initial stage of the recovery phase. The stage can take as little as a few hours or even several days after a disaster has occurred. Effective search and rescue efforts are realized when immediate action is taken to save lives in situations with eminent danger (Warfield, 2014). The search and rescue process takes a few days after which the focus is shifted to providing support to the survivors of the disaster. Some situations may call for a lengthy search duration to find those that are trapped in unsafe areas and who need to be evacuated to safe areas. This was the case with the Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in which the search actions lasted for weeks as efforts were made to rescue those that were trapped in their houses by the flood water that surrounded the houses, making it impossible for them to escape (Dasgupta, 2007). In this case, the survivors had some neighbors with whom they shared relief supplies to sustain them until the time when they were rescued. In most cases, members of the local community work closely with trained professionals from the emergency rescue teams.

Emergency Relief

The aim of the emergency relief stage is to ensure that victims’ basic needs are met so that they are properly treated as they recover from the disaster. The stage falls immediately after the emergency event has occurred as people need to be sustained through provision of food, water, medicine and shelter. The stage also relies on a needs assessment that is done immediately after the event to establish the amount of relief assistance required. The timeframe that emergency relief actions take is based on the nature of the emergency and the available resources. It is also based on the level of preparedness of the affected country or community, the level of vulnerability of the affected area and the locally available resources.
The difference in the time taken to accomplish the emergency relief requirement also depends on the status of the country. Prosperous countries have governments and community structures that are adequately prepared for disasters better than the under resourced countries and communities. For example, the relief stage of disaster management in Haiti lasted for over two years following the 2010 earthquake. Part of the affected population was living in deplorable conditions even prior to the occurrence of the disaster; hence, it took them longer to recover despite the relief actions. This is contrary to the situation that was observed in Chile after the earthquake that occurred in 2011. In the later case, the country was well prepared to respond to the emergency because it is accustomed to such occurrences.

Early Recovery

The early recovery stage is reached at a time when the victims of a disaster have been helped to regain a stable transition period. The victims are capable of accessing basic needs as they are provided with food, water and transitional shelter. At this stage, the population can resume their normal lives and children can even resume going to school, although the classes may be held in alternative structures like churches and tents. At this early recovery stage, the affected population has not fully recovered from the implications of the emergency occurrence but they start adapting to the new state of normalcy.

Medium to Long-Term Recovery

This stage follows the early recovery stage. With the help of the government and no-governmental organizations, people get involved in the construction of permanent structures to replace the temporary ones that were used during the early recovery stage. Tents and other transition structures are brought down as more stable structures are built to accommodate learning activities.

People also construct better houses and the social fabric that holds members of the community together is strengthened. People get an opportunity to develop their economies as they slowly regain a stable life.

Principles of Emergency Management


Comprehensive emergency management is that which demonstrates readiness for and conducting emergency actions that are essential to mitigate, prepare for, act on and recover from disasters irrespective of the cause. The emergency management measures should be capable of responding to and helping communities recover from disasters resulting from natural, human or technological causes. For an emergency management initiative to be comprehensive, it must consist of four components, namely; all hazards, all phases, all impacts and all stakeholders (Alexander, 2002).

All Hazards

It is essential to conduct a risk assessment to better know the risks that are most likely to occur and to prioritize precautionary preparedness appropriately based on the anticipate risks. It is wrong to regard all risks in a similar manner with respect to resource allocation. This is because some presumed risks may not be as common as others, hence an equitable allocation of resources to attend to the risks may not work. The manner in which people or organizations respond to risks may be uniform for all risks, but the difference in the magnitude of loss caused by a particular emergency may necessitate a risk specific approach to be given to some situations. For example, some emergencies cause massive loss of property and displacement of human and animal population. In such situations, there is need for more resources to be allocated to the rescue and recovery actions as compared to less destructive emergencies. To know how to prepare and allocate resources appropriately to the anticipated emergencies, a risk assessment must be done (Alexander, 2002).

All Phases

Alexander (2002) defines a comprehensive emergency management as one that constitutes all phases of emergency management irrespective of the similarities between them. The four phases, namely mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery must all be undertaken to ensure that the implications of a disaster are limited. There is need for detailed planning and execution of each phase of the emergency management cycle so that all necessary actions are taken at every stage. It is likely that stakeholders may assume a phase based on the absence of a clear cut difference between the phases. In such cases, the emergency management initiatives taken cannot be considered comprehensive.

All Impacts

Disasters are diverse with respect to their impacts. As assessments are done to establish the level of risk of occurrence of a given emergency, it is necessary to prepare for all manner of impacts that can result from the occurrence of an emergency. The impacts may range from damage to the infrastructure, loss of property, interference with human services and displacement of human and animal population among others. As considerations are made about the nature of hazards that are anticipated in a given locality, the consequences of such disasters should also be assessed and addressed.

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All Stakeholders

This element of the comprehensive principle of emergency management requires that all stakeholders involved in a disaster management work closely. The working relationships between government agencies, the general public and the private sector should be conducive and collaborative because the stakeholders need to assist each other and complement their efforts to effectively manage a disaster and restore a state of normalcy (Alexander, 2002).


Progressive emergency management focuses on prevention and mitigation rather than response and recovery. Disasters have been identified to account for large sums of resource allocation as people pay little attention to preventive measures. Residential houses are constructed in high risk areas as people practice gross environmental mismanagement. As such, progressive disaster management calls for a focus in establishing measures to limit the community’s level of exposure to disasters so that the damages and financial expenditures incurred can be reduced. Emergency managers must take up an advisory role so that they oversee community programs and attend to causative agents of all risks at every emergency management cycle.


Emergency management should be based on the need to properly allocate resources to manage risks. While planning emergency management programs, emergency managers should set their priorities so that adequate resources are allocated to high risk areas and the risks that are understood to have more diver stating implications on human life, property and infrastructure. The managers should be capable of identifying hazards, the magnitude of their consequences, the possibility of their occurrence and the level of people’s vulnerability to the hazards.
This principle states that effective risk management is based on three aspects. According to Alexander (2002), it first focuses on identification of natural and manmade hazards that may impact human population. Secondly, the risks should be analyzed with respect to the level of exposure of a given community. The last element is the essence of conducting impact assessment to establish the consequences that the hazards can have on the communities, organizations and other concerned entities. The mitigation, emergency response plans and recovery should be formulated and prioritized accordingly depending on the identified risks and their consequences.


Effective emergency management requires unity of effort that is heavily based on vertical and horizontal integration. The emergency programs at the local level should be integrated with federal government activities so that they work to supplement each other’s efforts. The private sector’s action plans in response to or in readiness for an emergency should also consider the activities or plans made by the local community. Local emergency management programs should also be linked with higher level plans so that resources are appropriately allocated from the higher levels to the local level. Proper synchronization of emergency management plans also helps to avoid instances where funds are delayed after a disaster has occurred. Additionally, the integration principal requires that emergency management be incorporated into daily activities and decisions as opposed to a situation when they are only considered during a disaster. The government is largely responsible for securing people. However, this mission cannot be met without proper cooperation with the private sector, the media and the general public. Every sector needs to play its role in the emergency management process to make it more effective (Alexander, 2002).


At times of a disaster, it helps to create collaborative relationships where people show concern about each other. A collaborative response to a disaster makes rescue missions effective and recovery becomes less expensive. Members of the affected community collaborate with the government and aid agencies to offer assistance to victims of a disaster. A collective action is necessary in situations that are characterized with high levels of uncertainty. The aid agencies should build trust on each other and on the community that is in crisis. Such trust can only be developed if all stakeholders collaborate in their operations to ensure that all actions taken and assistance given are transparently done. The collaborative principle requires that the mutual relationships that exist between organizations, communities and government agencies before a disaster occurs should be maintained after a disaster has occurred (Alexander, 2002).


Emergency management organizations operate from different regions. The emergency manager is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that mutual agreement is created between all agencies that are operating to mitigate the situation at hand. Proper coordination helps channel all emergency management processes towards achieving a common purpose. Organizations can offer independent activities in response to a disaster but the activities should all be aimed at achieving the same goal.


Due to the diverse nature of disasters and emergencies, Alexander (2002) suggests that emergency managers need to be very innovative and flexible in formulating policies to be used in mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters. Emergency managers are opposed to rigid government policies that provide little flexibility in executing duties. Problems should always be attended to in the best possible way without necessarily relying on the traditional responses that may have been given to a similar situation. Flexibility allows for the adoption of more innovative measures that can best respond to situations. Emergency managers should focus their efforts on assessing the level of vulnerability of a population to a disaster and initiating measures to eradicate or limit the risk involved. There are chances that a disaster may have more than one mitigation strategy. The flexibility principle requires that emergency managers select the strategy that is most likely to be adopted by the target group rather than focusing attention on the most efficient course of action. Some actions can encounter a lot of resistance by the local community due to cultural or ideological differences. In such situations, the emergency manager must be flexible and creative enough to use another strategy that is widely accepted by the population.

Flexibility also allows the emergency manager to deal with political, social and economic pressures while making decisions. A competent emergency manager should look at the short term requirements for recovery while also focusing on the long-term needs of the affected community. The response phase of emergency management is the most dramatic phase that requires emergency managers to be flexible enough to propose varied tactics and to adapt quickly to the dynamic situations. The ability to suggest alternative solutions to a disaster and having the competence to implement varied solutions based on distinct situations is a formula for success in emergency management.


Professionalism is required for effective emergency management. Professionalism, in this context, refers to the commitment of emergency management as a profession and does not focus on the attributes of the emergency manager. Looking at emergency management as a profession, there are a number of features that must be met. The features include:

Code of Ethics

Emergency management activities should be based on some standard code of ethics. There are no particular codes of ethics that have been universally agreed upon in the profession. However, the International Association of Emergency Managers has a code of ethics that mainly focus on respect, commitment and professionalism. These aspects are generally accepted as key elements to be adhered to by emergency management practices. Other features found within professionalism include membership to professional associations, attainment of professional certification and having a specialized body of knowledge that can be used to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster (Alexander, 2002).


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Disaster management is aimed at limiting or preventing possible losses from emergencies, providing timely and effectively assistance to victims of an emergency and to facilitate recovery from the consequences of a disaster. Disaster management is a cyclic process that requires that all stakeholders stay actively involved in all stages of the cycle. To succeed in disaster management, public policies must be shaped and appropriate plans that can prevent the causes of a disaster or mitigate their consequences on humans, assets and the infrastructure are developed. It follows that the four phases of disaster management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery must all be undertaken in equal measure by taking necessary steps at each phase to limit the effects of a disaster.

The first two phases; mitigation and preparedness occur before a disaster strikes. They are regarded as disaster management enhancements and they are implemented after the occurrence of a disaster has been realized. Communities often initiate developmental programs which need to be executed in consideration of the possibilities of a disaster. Disaster management stakeholders like humanitarian organizations respond immediately whenever an emergency occurs to spearhead short and long-term recovery. There is no clear cut difference between the four phases of a disaster. Similarly, there is no specific timeline for a given phase as the duration of each phase depends on the nature and severity of a disaster.

Dasgupta (2007) states that in the mitigation phase, activities are conducted with an aim of mitigating or reducing the possibility of occurrence of a disaster. The actions taken at this phase also help to lower the effects of a disaster if it cannot be prevented. The measures taken at this stage include land use management, provision of public education, code building and preventive health care among others. During national and regional development planning, relevant measures are taken to curb an event based on the available information about the possibility of its occurrence. Emergency preparedness involves making sure that community memebers and organizations ready for an emergency. Measures that are taken at this phase are based on the understanding that disasters are inevitable hence there is need to empower the technical and managerial ability of communities, organizations and the government.

At this phase, long-term and short term strategies are developed, early warning systems are established and public education is offered to ensure that the public is well equipped with knowledge on how to respond when a disaster strikes. Preparedness can also be done by improving food reserves, medicine, water and improvement on other essential services to be used to supplement the limited supply as a result of a catastrophe. Strategies are put in place to save lives, minimize the level of damage that is likely to be suffered when a disaster strikes and to improve response operations. The activities at this phase include emergency training, evacuation plans, signing mutual aid agreements and public information among others (Dasgupta, 2007).

When a disaster occurs, the emergency management processes advance to the last two phases. At this stage, humanitarian agencies are called upon to handle the immediate response and recovery initiatives. Response aims to rescue the victims, improve their health and enhance their psychological stability. The actions taken at this phase include evacuations, provision of limited aid like food, temporary shelter and medicine. Response is targeted at helping people access their basic needs before steps are taken to provide permanent solutions. Timely and effective response to a disaster helps people to advance to the recovery phase. At this phase, the affected community can start participating in a number of activities to resume their lives. The phase offers opportunities for people to prevent future emergencies and lower their level of exposure to a disaster. Recovery can take long depending on the effects of the disaster. Recovery measures continue until such time when systems get back to their normal state or up to the time when they become better (Dasgupta, 2007).

Disaster management involves dealing with emergencies and avoiding risks before they occur. The discipline looks at the strategies that are taken to mitigate a disaster, prepare for it before it occurs, and respond to it after occurrence and to recover from its consequences. It is necessary for all stakeholders to cooperate throughout the disaster management process so that effective measures are put in place to support the victims of a disaster and to rebuild the society after the occurrence of either man made or natural disasters. Emergency management is regarded as a continuous process where individuals and groups of people and communities work jointly to manage risks in an attempt to prevent or reduce the consequences of a disaster.

The actions taken to ameliorate the implications of a disaster depend on the findings of risk assessment (Sezhiyan and Sundar, 2007). In the process of risk assessment, the concerned authorities identify the most probable hazards and the communities that are much exposed to the dangers of such hazards. Furthermore, stakeholders assess the level of damage that such disasters are likely to cause. Such information is used when formulating disaster management plans and during resource allocation. The communities that known to face threats of severe emergencies are prioritized during resource allocation. Adequate measures are taken to prepare the communities for the anticipated disaster so that at the event that it finally occurs, its implications may not be severe.

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