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Local and Federal Disaster Resources

Disasters are not discrete events in general. Their possibility of occurrence, time, place, and severity of the strike are reasonably predictable. In some cases, the accuracy of such a prediction is enormous due to the technological and scientific advances. “By following a definite pattern of disaster occurrences, it is possible to reduce the impact of damages. Thus, it demands a keen study of disaster management in methodological and orderly approach,” (Fagnoni, 2008). As a result, the local and federal governments have various resources that help them in managing disasters. These resources focus on measures that were taken before, during, and after the occurrence of disasters. “However, unlike natural disasters such as hurricanes, man-made disasters like terrorist attacks still pose immense danger. This is because of their unpredictability,” (Barbanel, 2006). Nevertheless, the governments have adequate resources to counteract such events. The state of Texas has several disaster resources in addition to federal resources for disaster management.

The local city provides many resources regarding disaster management. These resources include Emergency Management Plans (EMP) and Health Services. At the federal government’s level, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has several resources at its disposal. Among FEMA’s resources are legal resources, Individuals, and Households Program (IHP). These are a few of the numerous resources that are available for managing disasters in the State of Texas. Each resource has its unique significance to the victims. However, their functions require coordination to ensure that the victims obtain the best services possible.

The city’s local authority has the responsibility to ensure protection of people’s lives, their property, as well as the city environment. City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) accomplishes its emergency functions through four phases. These include mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. The local authority coordinates, plans, and trains emergency response teams. It also provides drills, exercises, in addition to financial assistance, to disaster victims. The OEM avails a publication of its Emergency Management Plan (EMP) to city residents. The phases of emergency management form the basis of this plan (Barbanel, 2006).

The mitigation phase includes activities that are aimed at reducing or eliminating the chances of disaster occurrences. These activities also eliminate or reduce any possible damages that the city may suffer due to such emergencies. The next phase consists of the activities that were developed by the government, individuals, and organizations in order to save lives and property. In the response phase, the city authority outlines its actions that are aimed at minimizing deaths and property damage. The OEM further provides emergency assistance at this phase. The last phase is the recovery phase (Doherty, 2010). This comprises activities that aim to restore a state of normalcy in the city. This is about city operations as well as the city community. Recovery actions may be both short and long-term.

In the event of an emergency, the city’s local authority activates its Emergency Operations Center (OEC). It has a responsibility to notify the state emergency management of the magnitude of the situation. This is done by submitting regular situation reports (SITREP). The OEM then works with other departments for fast and effective response. Other partners in this response include several volunteers and private agencies (Doherty, 2010). The city also works closely with the state and federal agencies that intervene if the city’s resources are inadequate. The victims can access the city’s disaster resources through the state website at www.texas.gov.

FEMA uses the IHP program to provide financial support as well as services to disaster victims. This arises when the suffered losses do not have any insurance cover. The assistance requires eligibility. This implies that the individual must meet certain conditions before qualifying for aid. The program does not incur every expense. Its design aims at fulfilling critical expenses beyond the cover of other means available. In addition, IHP does not intend to restore damaged property to its initial conditions. Thus, the program has a limit to which it can offer assistance. Its financial assistance does not cover any losses that are related to business. This limitation extends to those losses that are under the victim’s insurance cover.

Through IHP program, FEMA provides various assistances. To begin with, it provides money for temporary housing. This may be to pay rent in a different place, or it can be in the form of the government’s housing unit. It also provides money for repairing homes. This is with the aim of ensuring safety, sanitation, and functionality in the recovery efforts. The program may also avail money for replacement of homes to homeowners. The objective is to reduce the cost of replacing such homes after the disaster. In addition, through the IHP program, eligible victims may get direct aid or money to construct a new home. This provision can only be applied to victims in areas that FEMA considers insular or remote. Furthermore, the program has the mandate to provide money for basic needs and other fundamental expenses resulting from the disaster. Such expenses encompass medical, personal property, and transportation (Doherty, 2010). Others include dental moving and storage, funeral as well as any expenses under the authorization of state laws. It works closely with Small Business Administration agency to ascertain eligibility of victims.

FEMA also provides legal resources to various victims. The legal assistance aims at advising the victims on matters regarding their insurance claims and civil rights claims. Several illegal forms of discrimination hinder people from obtaining equal access to various services and programs. Civil Rights laws prohibit local government or any state agency against discriminating the aid recipients due to their race, sex, gender, or age. Further reasons for possible discrimination may be due to color, economic status, nationality, and religion (Fagnoni, 2008).

FEMA’s legal resource has an obligation to handle any claims that are filed by a recipient of state agency aid, including FEMA itself. Thus, it has an obligation to ascertain that eligible victims have equal access to aids, services, and benefits. It handles civil suits through its Equal Rights Officers (ERO). If the officers cannot resolve the claims, victims may further file complaints with FEMA. Unsuccessful negotiations of the alleged violations by FEMA may lead to the institution of enforcement proceedings. FEMA legal resources will further handle any retaliatory actions against a victim by a Federal agency. This may result in following a prior proceeding that is instituted against the agency by the recipient. Therefore, FEMA’s Office of Equal Rights has an obligation to ensure that all Federal agencies receiving disaster aid from FEMA operate in a just and fair manner (Doherty, 2010).

The disaster victims can contact FEMA to fill a form for eligibility for assistance. The agency’s contacts include its disaster helpline at 1 800 621 FEMA (3362). It also has a reservation for victims with hearing and/ or speech impairment: 1 800 462 7585. Further communication and information is available on its website at www.fema.gov.  In case of legal assistance, the victims may reach the ERO by calling 1 800 621 FEMA (1 800 621 3362) or TTY 1 800 462 7585.  For inquiries by mail, one may write to: FEMA, National Processing Service Center, P.O. Box 10055, Hyattsville, MD 20782 7055 (Fagnoni, 2008).

The local, state, and federal agencies are no doubt doing much to resolve humanitarian crises. However, they need to improve their organization. The recovery phase of disaster management requires enormous effort. It is during this phase that the victims realize the impact of the disaster. Furthermore, the victims often stay in shelters that are strange along with other victims. During this time, they need intensive mental support to facilitate recovery. The agencies require a better advertisement and organization to provide meaningful mental health and trauma support to the victims. The agencies should put necessary emphasis on this crucial phase of disaster management.

The agencies should embrace a more collaborative environment. Collaboration software and file sharing are widely available. This new trend can enable information sharing to reduce duplication of effort. “By allowing people to interact more easily and more often, better collaboration tools can also foster rapport and trust” (Doherty, 2010). Another resource would be embracing an intelligent, adaptive planning. This would eradicate the barriers between preparation and execution. It eliminates the dual problems of creating plans that do not fit. Mental health support can further become more effective by use of computer technology. Various tools will aid in decision making by monitoring crucial processes and activities. Technology tools might be significant in decisions pertaining dropping constraints and elevating conflicts for resolution (Barbanel, 2006).

The aid agencies also require more distributed emergency operation centers. This will enhance distributed coordination, planning, and scheduling systems. This guarantees the provision of tools for preparing disaster response plans. It will improve the coordination and monitoring of execution processes in a more distributed manner. Another resource for improvement is using models for resource utilization. Modeling and studying of different disaster scenarios in detail will improve disaster management tremendously. “This resource will provide a better idea of the required resources, their quantity, as well as where and how best to use or deploy them” (Fagnoni, 2008). For instance, these may be items like portable water for survivors and useful deployment of satellites. Finally, the agencies need to explore more similarities between transportation networks and information technology networks. Effective utilization of transport resources results in effective coordination of resources using information technology. Thus, this knowledge can assist in solving problems with transportation logistics.

Finally, psycho-educational approaches are paramount. Short-term counseling sessions involving teaching the victim about normal reactions to trauma are critical. These sessions will improve and strengthen the victim’s coping ability, self-care, and symptom management techniques (Doherty, 2010). There is also a need to educate victims on stress management, understanding vulnerability to depression, substance use, and anxiety. The agencies should further encourage referrals of victims to other community resources for aid as well as to group therapies. The agencies should take note of the possibility of exacerbation of trauma-related problems during anniversaries of these events.

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