Emergency management at the state and local levels is similar in scope to utility disaster recovery. In every case, poor execution can derail efforts by wasting precious time and resources. An article from governing.com highlights how the effectiveness of emergency management practices – or lack thereof – can literally mean the difference between life and death.
One example cited in the article is the 2010 New York blizzard which shut the city down for days because of insufficient plow availability and deployment. Had the plows been ready, restoration time could have been cut in half. A similar example occurred on the heels of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 – due to evacuation delays, the outage restoration effort slowed dramatically. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans was also highlighted by the article as a subpar emergency management effort.
Ways to Improve Emergency Management Efforts
There are several ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of disaster recovery efforts. Perhaps the most important element is communication with local residents, an element that is somewhat complicated these days thanks to Facebook and Twitter. Social media channels like these require a shift in mindset, as traditionally municipalities and even utilities aimed to control the flow of information but now this is not possible – information flows constantly online, and without any kind of filtering. Rumor management also becomes more critical with the proliferation of social media communication.
Another tip is to provide clear direction after the event has passed – for example, encouraging people to donate cash instead of food or clothing which is difficult to transport, or providing clear guidelines for wannabe volunteers.
Finally, improvisation can help. Simply put, not all situations or scenarios can be practiced via exercises and drills, so creative problem-solving is key to optimizing the effectiveness of emergency management.