Ready to Change Your Agency's Name?

Civil defense, emergency management, homeland security?

by Eric Holdeman / October 28, 2019

The name game has been played quite a bit in my tenure in emergency management. Back in the early 1990s, there were still many agencies with the title "Civil Defense," stemming from the Cold War era and nuclear attack scenarios that were of concern.

That title hung around for a long time, with some still having it in some places. Slowly most had begun swinging over to "emergency management" or in the case of California they went with "emergency services" and for a relatively short period of "business card production" recently switched to "emergency management" but went back to "Office of Emergency Services" not that long ago. EOC or ECC. Happy or glad — take your pick — whatever makes you feel better I guess. 

Many more agencies at the state and local levels emulated the national establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, by changing their names to "Homeland Security" or in the case of California again, establishing a separate "Office of Homeland Security." Which was a big mistake in my opinion, a bit of a knee-jerk, "I may get more money this way" reaction. By now most, if not all, the separate homeland security agencies have been merged into their emergency management function.

Which brings me to this story about Cook County, Ill., After ICE raid concerns at Evanston street fair, Cook County drops ‘homeland security’ from department’s name. The homeland security brand has been suffering a bit of late with all the border issues that have been in play for the last three years of the Trump administration. 

People are not that refined in their thinking. That, along with the logo, can give the impression that you are an arm of DHS.  

I am wondering if that trend to distance one's government agency from DHS might catch on in other places, with others dropping any reference to homeland security in their title. Worse would be an elected body telling you not to apply for any DHS grants ... out of spite.  

The whole issue of "sanctuary cities" could still come to the fore with those so self-designated not being able to get DHS grant funds. I'm not suggesting it, but there is plenty of animosity going around to make that come to pass. 

Maybe we should name our agencies "Aladdin's Lamp"? Your wish is our command!

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