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W8: Future Challenges EDMG 230

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Jersey Shore Superstorm Sandy destruction

Class, this is the final forum of the course.  From our readings from Week 8, we see that the field of emergency management including the Incident Command System and NIMS have changed drastically over the years.  The NIC has been developed in order to make sure that our incident management systems are as efficient and effective as possible.  Going forward, there will inevitably be changes that will positively impact our emergency response and disaster planning organizations.  In the past 50 years we have seen significant changes to the field of emergency management in our country.  Some of the notable turning points in the field of emergency management include the following:

· 1974 – Disaster Relief Act of 1974 – The Disaster Relief Act of 1974 authorized the president of the United States to implement a program of disaster preparedness and relief aid that would enable use of all federal agencies.  The Disaster Relief Act of 1974 states that any federal assistance offered is dependent upon the president authorizing such aid in the form of issuing a declaration. 

· 1979
 – FEMA is created.

· 1988 – Stafford Act – Part of the reason for the change from the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 to the Stafford Act was the fact that the federal government was concerned about expanding disaster declarations beyond only natural disasters, and this included other types of incidents such as technological disasters (Three Mile Island in PA) and other instances outside the scope of natural disasters.  Terrorism is not yet included.  Federal assistance could be requested by the state on behalf of either the local government or state government.  However, the request from the state must come from the governor. 

· 2002 – Homeland Security Act – The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks resulted in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  FEMA is now included under the umbrella of DHS.   

· HSPD-5 established the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the National Response Plan (NRP).

· HSPD-8 established policies to strengthen the preparedness of the United States to prevent and respond to threatened or actual domestic terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies by requiring a national domestic all-hazards preparedness goal, establishing mechanisms for improved delivery of Federal preparedness assistance to State and local governments, and outlining actions to strengthen preparedness capabilities of Federal, State, and local entities.

· 2005 – Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act – the performance of FEMA and other emergency management agencies during Hurricane Katrina results in the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (
PKEMRA) of 2006.  The act enhances FEMA’s responsibilities and its autonomy within DHS.  Significant and meaningful changes to FEMA were made to increase preparedness levels of the general population and aid in mitigation and resilience efforts.  These changes also included incident management assistance teams, pre-positioning of resources, expedited federal services, and including considerations for individuals with special needs. 

· 2012 – Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 – Hurricane Sandy was the first major test for FEMA after Hurricane Katrina prompted the changes seen in the PKEMRA.  SRIA changes the way that FEMA can deliver federal disaster assistance to survivors.  Further improvements to disaster assistance are included in the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018.

For this final forum, compare and contrast the responses to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy (or another hurricane of your choosing after Sandy).  Make sure to focus on the changes to FEMA as a result of the PKEMRA of 2006.  Report on two areas where improvements were made in the response and incident management between Katrina in 2005 and Sandy or another hurricane occurring in 2012 or beyond.  Also address how you think ICS, NIMS and the field of emergency management will continue to adapt and change in order to meet future challenges.

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Hurricane Katrina and Sandy are perfect examples of how emergency management has evolved in the US, particularly concerning the changes brought about by the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA). Although both hurricanes caused significant damage, there were notable improvements in the response and incident management during Hurricane Sandy and subsequent events.

PKEMRA improved coordination and communication. One of the most notable improvements undoubtedly caused by PKEMRA was the increased coordination and communication among all levels of government. The National Response Framework and the National Incident Management System became mandatory for all to use and provided clear guidance on incident command. The Katrina response drew heavy criticism because of the lack of coordination between federal, state, and local agencies. In contrast, the Sandy response showed much improvement and coordination from all agencies. Communication was better, and resources were deployed more efficiently.

Another capability that was improved was the ability to mobilize resources better and have them prepositioned. PKEMRA enabled better resource management and faster response times. During Katrina, mobilizing resources took a lot of work, and FEMA struggled to assist families promptly. During Sandy, however, FEMA was able to distribute resources much better, significantly reducing the hardships the affected communities faced.

As for the future of emergency management, continued training and education will be necessary to ensure that we are prepared to handle new and evolving situations. Also, integrating new technology will enhance our early warning systems and response coordination. The emergency management field must remain adaptable and proactive to address future challenges.

When conducting a comparative analysis between Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, it becomes evident that several noteworthy advancements were implemented, primarily in response to the perceived shortcomings in the handling and recuperation efforts following Hurricane Katrina. One advantageous aspect of failure lies in the valuable lessons that companies can derive from such experiences. A significant challenge encountered by the response activities following Hurricane Katrina was the absence of adequate preparedness measures. According to Gregory (2015), the states affected by Hurricane Katrina had only prepared for the typical problems and severity associated with storms, without considering the possibility of a more severe storm event. As a consequence, the absence of adequate infrastructure, resources, and contingency preparations posed a significant challenge in terms of promptly addressing the exigencies arising from Hurricane Katrina. The absence of effective communication among the various government entities engaged had a negative impact on the response and recovery endeavors. According to Gregory (2015), government entities effectively utilized the Incident Command System (ICS) to provide seamless communication upon the formation of Hurricane Sandy. The excellent utilization of the Incident Command System (ICS) facilitated thorough preparedness for the imminent hurricane and resulted in the preservation of numerous lives (Gregory, 2015). Regarding the prospective trajectory of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS), it is my contention that societal advancements are progressively steering us towards a future predominantly characterized by technology integration. Currently, there is a use of advanced communication devices, such as base station radios equipped with several encrypted frequencies. Additionally, tablets are employed to ensure the up-to-date maintenance of Incident Command System (ICS) forms. As society progresses, it is inevitable that we encounter many changes. However, it is crucial to have capable leaders who possess a comprehensive understanding of the operational intricacies at the grassroots level. This ensures that the implemented changes are neither redundant or counterproductive in nature.


Gregory, P. A. (2015). 


Inquires Journal


The federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina can be summed up as slow, ineffective, bureaucratic, and near total failure. These noticeable failures in response and recovery efforts led to the Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act (PKEMRA) of 2006. The PKEMRA contained more than 300 provisions that were intended to improve national preparedness, emergency response and recovery efforts, and enhance select disaster management programs. There were several key provisions to this act that re-shaped FEMA and granted them with new authorities and resources. For example, PKEMRA created 10 regional FEMA offices with each office having their own regional administrator and granted FEMA more autonomy as an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. (NIH, 2015). The act also called on FEMA to organize a working group of federal and NGOs to develop a National Disaster Recovery Strategy, which was later renamed in September 2011 as the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF). The NDRF sought to improve upon the recovery effort failures from Katrina including the failure to relate local needs to available resources, and the failure to plan for the actions of multiple parties to address disagreements about resource allocation (NIH, 2015, para 7).

The first improvement area made between the Hurricane Katrina and Sandy response was the pre-staging of federal resources for response operations prior to the president making a disaster declaration. This is a critical authority granted to FEMA from the PKEMRA and allowed FEMA to establish Incident Support Bases in Massachusetts and New Jersey, in addition to five federal staging areas in New York before Hurricane Sandy made landfall. Some of the pre-staged equipment included 892,000 liters of water, 561,000 meals, 11,9000 blankets and cots, 183 generators, and 30 infant and toddler kits, which each supported up to 10 infants or toddlers with items such as diapers, baby food and formula (Zimmerman, 2013). The second improvement came during the recovery phase and rebuilding local communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. Working within the NDRF, President Obama signed an executive order creating the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. This task force ensured there were cabinet-level, government-wide and region-wide partnerships to assist communities in making long-term rebuilding decisions (HUD, 2018). I think some of the most important decisions to make when rebuilding a community after a disaster is how to rebuild the community stronger and better able to withstand future disasters, which the task force sought to do.

As the future and technologies continue to evolve, so will need to evolve the ICS, NIMS, and the field of emergency management if they wish to remain relevant. One area that I think will inevitably make its way into this arena will be the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) into all aspects of emergency management. While AI is still in its infant stage, it is proving to be a fast-growing and evolving technology. I envision it being a tool in which sophisticated algorithms and storm simulations can be built to determine the impacts that future incidents can have and produce a list of what infrastructures will be affected by the incident what resources will be needed to respond and recover from the event. 


National Institutes of Health. (2015, September 10). Healthy, resilient, and sustainable communities after disaster: strategies, opportunities, and planning for recovery. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 


U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2018, May 10). About the Hurricane Sandy rebuilding task force. 


Zimmerman, E. (2013, November 14). Progress Report: Hurricane Sandy Recovery – One Year Later. FEMA. 



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