For some of the new readers here, not only is Firehouse Zen about enlightened leadership, it is about management issues and creative solutions to ongoing problems in the emergency service industry. If you are a long-time reader, you may recall our discussions in the past regarding disaster response and credentialing, and in an effort to dip back into some of the issues of disaster management, I’d like to point you all toward the excellent website of the Natural Hazards Research Center at the University of Colorado – Boulder.
In their latest issue of Disaster Research, there is an article regarding government response and recovery and the increase in governmental partnerships with faith- and community-based organizations to assist in cleaning up catastrophes. In the recent past, we have seen ineffective response from certain portions of government that have assumed responsibility for this service at the local, state and federal levels. I don’t think anyone who works in our field and is taken seriously about their views on the subject feels like “government” alone can deliver an entire package of assistance to a disaster-stricken community. However, there is plenty of debate about how to most effectively coordinate assistance in the wake of a calamity.
Of all things in our industry, our frustration with failure of some politicians to continue to apply heat (and funding) to the problem BEFORE disaster strikes is only compounded by the political “outrage” when disaster occurs and we are accused with not properly preparing in advance (still with limited or no budget or legislative action on our behalf).
In an answer to some of these challenges, some state and local governments are forming coalitions that guide organizations providing emergency response. Missouri, Florida, Texas, and a few others have, according to a recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, begun to develop alliances between emergency managers and NGOs.
There are many discussions regarding the potential for blurred church and state separation which can’t even begin to be adequately addressed in a short blog post. However, those issues aside, NGOs over the past decade have been efficiently providing disaster recovery assistance and have been successful in finding resources that governmental bodies can’t seem to scare up.
This discussion doesn’t also begin to factor in the entire over-reliance on “outside” help in the event of disaster. This was a point made by Alan Kirschenbaum in earlier works referring to the growth of the disaster response community that seem to be related to the decline in perception of individual responsibility for preparedness.
While this all has some serious discussion ahead of it, I have less of a problem with this type of assistance than I do with pseudo-qualified responders self deploying to events with little or no capability or self-sufficiency. I think there are plenty of avenues for a person with altruistic motives to get involved with an organized response; it’s the poseurs and con-men I’m interested in keeping away.
I’m open to some observations on the subject. I think if managed correctly, these NGOs have access to resources currently limited to those of us charged with response, and we should take advantage of creative partnerships, as the organizations I am affliliated have already done. Look around your community and identify capability that lies outside of the conventional response. You’ll be surprised by the resources that lie out there and I think you’ll find that instead of spending essential funds on assets that already exist, you can find better uses for that money in areas that are currently underserved.