Disaster Zone

Terminating a Disaster

When is it over and who gets to say, 'It's over'?

by Eric Holdeman / November 13, 2017

I mentioned in a past posting that I was beginning to read the book, The Politics of Crisis Management: Public Leadership Under Pressure.

My reading has only recently commenced and some, if not most days, it is only about 20 minutes during my train ride both ways on the light rail system in Seattle. I'm just getting into the book and they are talking about some of the future items to be discussed in more detail in later sections. One of those items had to do with "termination." Not when and how to fire someone, but when and how to "terminate" the emergency. 

When I go to emergency management conferences, I often run into experienced emergency managers in the hallways who say, "There isn't anything on the program that I don't know already." Or, words to that effect. I think this book is just the ticket for the "experienced" emergency manager. Senior leaders all have to deal with political types, and why not expand your mind and experience by reading this book, rather than only learning via the school of hard knocks?

I see this particular "termination" element to be relevant to what has been going on in Puerto Rico the last few months. I see our federal political leaders and senior emergency managers wanting as early a termination as possible, even before all the paint is dry on the response!

If someone had told you that two months after a disaster the percentages of people without power and potable water were what they are today in Puerto Rico, "How would you characterize that disaster response?" Would you call it successful?

There is going to be a huge rush at some point to "declare victory" and move on down the road as quickly as possible. Watch and see!