Strategic Considerations for Emergency Preparedness and Management: An Editorial Essay

Strategic Considerations for Emergency Preparedness and Management: An Editorial Essay

Murray Turoff (New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jsita.2010101501
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Abstract

A strategic issue is a major core issue that can rarely be resolved by any sort of fully objective approach. It is usually about the future and the alternative options that exist to “improve” the future. This article explores the critical areas of concern in strategic considerations illustrated by the topic of Emergency Preparedness and Management.
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Introduction

I think it would be appropriate for a Journal on Strategic Considerations to have at least one essay in every issue by a professional who through his or her expertise in a given topic can express an accumulated wisdom about what they consider to be the major strategic issues in their field. Having suggested this I was asked to create an example for this first issue.

A strategic issue is a major core issue that can rarely be resolved by any sort of fully objective approach. It is usually about the future and the alternative options that exist to “improve” the future. As such it carries the requirement for subjective inputs and judgments of those involved. Most often it requires insights from many different knowledge areas and the gradual evolution of some sort of group oriented expression of the underlying rationales and resulting wisdom. The results of such an activity depend upon the knowledge, wisdom, or expertise of the participants and the type of structure and/or communication process in which they engage. This may be a confliction process where different stakeholders have inherent views that disagree with one another or a consensual process where a growing understanding in a heterogeneous group of experts (or knowledgeable individuals) can produce a result that is better than any member would have come up with independently of the group process. This property of “collective intelligence” (Hiltz & Turoff, 1978, 1993) in a given field is also what we hope for out of the process of peer reviewed journals that most academic fields support. Through the professional communication process wisdom will prosper. The use of the term “stakeholders,“ used in the management literature is a bit misleading because it implies a set of individuals who hold very different viewpoints and while these must be clearly presented the decision maker will do his or her own weighing of the options. The view we have is more of a communication process where the representative of differing knowledge areas can have the opportunity to understand and recognize the relevance of those in other knowledgeable areas so that a group synthesis can result (Linstone & Turoff, 1975).

I have chosen the field of Emergency Preparedness and Management as the professional field for which I wish to express what I believe is or should be some of the current strategic wisdom. My subjective insights about what are the core issues are supported in my professional publications that are listed as a further reading option. This field is very complex and the overworked practitioner faces hundreds of documents occurring every month that they are somehow supposed to be familiar with from a large assortment of different “official” sources. There are three very simple strategic questions that do not have adequate answers as yet.

  • Whose is in charge of what?

  • Whose is actually involved in the process?

  • What are we going to do now and in the future?

Lack Of A Comprehensive Command And Control System

There is a profession of Emergency Management that has been increasing its certification requirements. Their professional association has already agreed that there will be educational requirements in addition to the experience-oriented requirements that are used now. However, it is not clear in many cases that the people with the expected experience and qualifications in emergency management are actually in charge in a given crisis situation. In many areas authority in a crisis or the planning for an emergency is divided up by emergency type among different agencies such as police, firefighting, public health, and public works. When there are possible conflicts in policies and actions in a given situation there is no expert authority that can resolve the situation and exercise complete authority. And if an overall commander is appointed, often he or she is a political appointee who has little knowledge or experience in emergency management.

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