Accident Prevention - National Organizations - United States

United States

Disaster and catastrophe planning in the United States has utilized the functional All-Hazards approach for over 20 years, in which emergency managers develop processes (such as communication & warning or sheltering) rather than developing single-hazard/threat focused plans (e.g., a tornado plan). Processes then are mapped to the hazards/threats, with the emergency manager looking for gaps, overlaps, and conflicts between processes.

This has the advantage of creating a plan more resilient to novel events (because all common processes are defined), encourages planning done by the process owners who are the subject matter experts (e.g., the traffic management plan written by public works director, rather than the emergency manager), and focuses on processes (which are real, can be measured, ranked in importance, and are under our control). This key planning distinction often comes in conflict with non-emergency management regulatory bodies which require development of hazard/threat specific plans, such as development of specific H1N1 flu plans and terrorism-specific plans.

In the United States, all disastrous events are initially considered as local, with a local authorities usually a law enforcement agency (LEA) having charge. Law enforcement agencies, typically have situational responsibility as disasters may lead to the normal tenants for lawful instruction (infrastructure, signage, etc.) being destroyed or in need of extraneous enforcement. Most disasters do not exceed the capacity of the local jurisdiction or the capacity that they have put in place to compensate such as memorandum of understandings with adjacent localities. However, if the event becomes overwhelming to local government, state emergency management (the primary government structure of the United States) becomes the controlling emergency management agency. Under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is lead federal agency for emergency management and supports, but does not override, state authority. The United States and its territories are covered by one of ten regions for FEMA’s emergency management purposes.

If, during mitigation it is determined that a disaster or emergency is terror related or if declared an "Incident of National Significance", the Secretary of Homeland Security will initiate the National Response Framework (NRF). Under this plan the involvement of federal resources will be made possible, integrating in with the local, county, state, or tribal entities. Management will continue to be handled at the lowest possible level utilizing the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

The Citizen Corps is an organization of volunteer service programs, administered locally and coordinated nationally by DHS, which seek to mitigate disaster and prepare the population for emergency response through public education, training, and outreach. s are a Citizen Corps program focused on disaster preparedness and teaching basic disaster response skills. These volunteer teams are utilized to provide emergency support when disaster overwhelms the conventional emergency services.

The US Congress established the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE) as the principal agency to promote disaster preparedness and societal resiliency in the Asia-Pacific region. As part of its mandate, COE facilitates education and training in disaster preparedness, consequence management and health security to develop domestic, foreign and international capability and capacity.

Most secondary or long-term disaster response is carried out by volunteer organizations. In the US, the Red Cross is chartered by Congress to coordinate disaster response services, including typically being the lead or largest agency handling sheltering and feeding of evacuees. For large events, religious organizations are able to mount volunteers quickly. The largest partners are the Salvation Army and Southern Baptists. The Salvation Army is usually primary chaplaincy and rebuild services; the Baptists' 82,000+ volunteers do bulk food preparation (90% of the meals in a major disaster) for Salvation Army distribution and homeowner services such as debris and downed limb removal, mold abatement, hot showers and laundry, child care and chaplaincy. Similar services are also provided by Methodist Relief Services, the Lutherans, and Samaritan's Purse.

Unaffiliated volunteers can be counted on to show up at most large disasters. To prevent abuse by criminals and for the safety of the volunteers, procedures have been implemented within most response agencies to manage and effectively use these 'SUVs' (Spontaneous Unaffiliated Volunteers).

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