The Emergency Management Agency goes back to the Civil Defense program of the late 1940's and 1950's. In the 1970's, with a softening of the threat of nuclear warfare between the superpowers, the Civil Defense program added planning and preparedness for natural hazards to its responsibilities (with nuclear preparedness remaining primary).
With this new area of concern the evolution continued, with "CD" evolving into DSA (Disaster Services Agency) in the early 1980's and eventually becoming today's Emergency Management Agency. EMA was charged with emergency planning and preparedness for all hazards. The four aspects of emergency management are Preparation, Response, Recovery, and Mitigation.
Emergency Management TODAY
Our society is based upon a network of systems that both compliment and depend upon each other. These include our government and essential services, banking institutions, utilities, commerce, industry, and education. We see these systems operate fairly smoothly every day. We drive to work on roadways and over bridges, go to local markets for our food supplies, and rely on the enjoyment of a home-cooked meal.
These systems on which we rely (and which we tend to take for granted) are dependent upon reliable, planned, supply and support structures. All works well as long as nothing outside of the plan upsets the system. Think of how irritating it is to have a mere traffic slow-down due to construction. Now consider how your life might be impacted if there were a major electric power disruption that lasted for several weeks. No traffic lights, television, microwaves, or refrigerators.
"Someone ought to plan for that..."
It is the task of the Emergency Management Agency to plan for the unplanned. When we hear news about disasters outside of our community, it is difficult to realize the true scope of disruption that can impact a community. Major natural disasters can strike anywhere, anytime. The San Francisco earthquake, Hurricane Andrew, The Midwest Flood events, The Twin Towers and Oklahoma City bombings are a few notable examples.
Additionally, there is the possibility of man-made disaster, such as the nuclear plant explosion in Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union, which tens of thousands of people were affected. The less disastrous but potentially catastrophic Three Mile Island incident also illustrates that we need to have contingencies in place.
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
How to manage the emergency is what this agency is all about. Every disaster scenario is unique in its cause and impact. The common thread which binds together all disaster response priorities is the need to protect human life. This starts with the basics — coordinating shelter, sustenance, and medical care. At the same time, the E.M.A. is involved with coordinating recovery/mitigation activities and acts as the supply and support resource for those efforts.
Finally, the E.M.A. helps with recovery and rebuilding the community's essential services and infrastructure. In order to respond to an emergency it is essential to know what resources you have to offer. The Emergency Management Agency is involved with compiling information about many needed materials. This ranges from sleeping cots and blankets to heavy equipment. Local shelter capacities and operating needs also must be evaluated and cataloged. Plans for delivering these items are put in place.
TRAINING • PLANNING • EXERCISE
State and Federal laws require communities to have disaster service plans in place, and to test them periodically. Testing in a full-scale mock disaster allows evaluation and illustrates any needed plan adjustments. Tests often include the "unplanned" — such as downed bridges, blocked roadways, or other complications. This sharpens needed skills for improvising under pressure.
The Madison County Emergency Management Agency often acts as liaison with a variety of governmental agencies, including:
- State and Federal Emergency Management Agencies — for training and support, and for assisting during large-scale disasters.
- State and Federal Environmental Protection Agencies — for planning, compliance, and emergency response to chemical releases/handling, as well as cleaning up of hazardous waste sites.