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Issues in Public Safety Management

Security and safety of members of the public should be the first priority matters in any country. Accidents and devastating natural acts such as earthquakes happen every now and then. Some events cannot be prevented by the local government, neither can they be detected, especially time and place they are going to happen. Some of these accidents may be car accidents or even fires in houses, offices, and many other places. According to Abbot and Hetzel (2005), it is the responsibility of the government at all levels (federal, state, and local) to protect lives, health, and welfare of their citizens. The breadth of legal issues that are affected by homeland security is extraordinary. These issues range from intelligence issues, prevention, and even preparedness programs. Similarly, the scope of emergency management law is also very daunting. It is clear that emergency management law encompasses all laws applicable to actions and authority of the government. The Emergency Management Director (EMD) is usually in charge of these issues of homeland security. In the recent years, doubts have emerged whether his/her duties and responsibilities should be really trimmed down, especially when it comes to firefighting issues. Though it is a disaster that requires immediate action and saving of people and property, the scope is wide considering other duties that the EMD has. This paper discusses emergency management, responsibilities of an EMD, a fire chief and whether the responsibilities of a fire chief should be delegated to another individual or organ of the government other than the EMD.

Emergency incidents, for example, fire, flood, earthquakes, and hurricanes greatly affect economic and social normalcy. They are usually categorized by uncertainty, i.e. their location, scenario, and magnitude are unexpected and sudden. They are of great risk as they may cause loss of property and life. Emergency management involves receiving information about a certain disaster and mobilization of essential emergency services to deal with the emergency. Major emergency services can include working with firefighters, the police, and ambulance services. The size of the emergency helps determine the amount of resources distributed to any disaster. After receiving information about a disaster, there needs to be a way in which accurate and timely information can be obtained and communication should be kept flowing and open to all the respondents. A well- prepared emergency plan is established as a part of the preparation phase that will enable coordinated rescue. Emergency preparation is a key factor that helps in disaster management around the world. The preparation requires attention to all types of disasters that can be experienced and not only to specific hazards as this helps to increase the speed of preparation (Emergency control and prevention, 2010). It is essential that people know who to contact in case of an emergency. Therefore, this preparation is done by an emergency management director who is always in charge of all disaster management.

The emergency management director has so many other responsibilities when managing disasters. Emergency management has four phases that are well followed in case of an incident. They are mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Mitigation consists of all the activities that try to reduce property and life losses caused by natural incidents. This phase seeks to fix incidents that keep occurring. These activities have a long-term effect. Preparedness is the development of plans that will help in identifying what to do and where to go in case of an incident so as to successfully attend to incidents. It involves organizing, planning, equipping, training, and exercising corrective measures in coordinating incidents. Response phase is a phase when plans from the preparedness phase are followed in order to respond to an incident. Well-being and safety of an incident depend on the level of preparation. In this phase, emergency operation plans are executed and designed activities are mitigated so as to ensure that loss of life, damage of property, and other harsh consequences are limited. Response planning includes applying activities like intelligence and other important information to reduce the consequences of incidents. Security operations are increased, sources of threat are well investigated, and there is a continuous public surveillance. The recovery phase helps develop, coordinate, and execute site-restoration plans. Government operations are reconstituted, as well as non-governmental, public, and individual assistance programs are introduced to provide shelter and treatment to the affected and promote the spirit of restoration. Moreover, initiatives are developed to mitigate incidents that may occur in the future.

Responsibilities of an EMD

Responding to incidents, both manmade and natural ones affecting public officials and individuals, start at the local level. Incidents are managed locally by local leaders and emergency managers. There are incidents that require a harmonized response across authorities and agencies, parts of the society, and political boundaries. These incidents require community leaders as well as appointed officials to make rational decisions concerning the community. Local duties are usually assigned to the Local Emergency Management Director, which is of vital significance to the community. An emergency director has to organize and plan local emergency management services. The director has to operate and manage the office of management services, emergency operations center, or maybe a related office, which consists of sustaining agency's procedures and policies. He/she has to draft the budget to be used in funding centers' capability to carry out their emergency operations plan for the relevant authority. Overseeing workers and training them in order to follow communication processes and implement emergency practices are among the major tasks of the emergency director. He/she also coordinates efforts with the state and local entities, for example, the Emergency Management Department, in order to ensure that the emergency program being used is operative and can always be administered during emergencies.

Emergency services have many related areas that the director has to prepare for and workers have to respond to. The preparation touches on conducting seminars with local officials and workers, contributing to drilling exercises, attending training programs so as to keep up with the regional and national statutes that influence director's responsibilities and duties. Some of the areas that he/she has to prepare are fire, flooding, terrorism, and dangerous chemical cases. The Emergency Operation Center's response to emergencies is supervised by the director, he/she ensures that funding and tools being used are effective. The director makes recommendations after each emergency since they will help in improving their standards and current operations being used (McCrie, 2007).

The Emergency Management Director does not overlap with duties of law enforcement and fire workers as task of those workers is to provide assistance to affected citizens at the time of an emergency. The director is the one responsible for the preparation, mitigation, and planning of emergency effects. The director also coordinates with outside department officials, but his/her duty here is limited since what he/she does is, for example, alerting the public of an impending danger and coordinating with the law enforcement and fire department so as to ensure a ready response is in place. Emergency directors are always required to have knowledge of disaster planning, resource requirements for emergencies, and survival procedures. They also need national and regional principles for prior understanding of emergencies.

The Fire Chief

A fire chief is one of the top officials in the fire department. In the department, the fire chief is either appointed or elected based on merits or proven tasks. He or she manages the daily tasks of the fire department once appointed. The fire chief manages other fire officers, assists firefighters at the scene of the fire, and trains new recruited workers. As a respected official in the community, he or she is sometimes requested to help with awareness programs, disaster relief, fire prevention education, for example, installing fire alarms in offices and homes, and fire inspections. He/she also handles administrative duties such as managing funds of fire stations, bookkeeping, and informing the media about ongoing activities. The chief's responsibility is to ensure that all volunteer firefighters are well-trained and he/she always directs them what to do. He or she ensures that equipment used in firefighting is monitored often for efficient use. Firefighting procedures and policies are developed by him/her according to the federal, municipal laws, territorial legislation, and requirements of the Fire Marshall Office. At the scene of the fire, he or she directs all the activities, decisions concerning proper response methods to manage fire, and ensures that proper control and command procedures are in place. Once the fire has been extinguished, he/she investigates the cause of that fire and maintains in his/her records injuries, the cause, and the property lost in that incident. In his/her records, he/she also maintains equipment records. Personnel records are also maintained by him/her as he/she is responsible for any demotion or promotions of officers within the fire department. The chief prepares reports on all firefighting areas and responses to emergencies. He/she is the one responsible for implementations of all grant applications and equipment replacement ("Process safety management", 2000).

Main duties of a fire chief mostly depend on the size of the fire department. For an effective management, an organization with fewer layers is required as it is easily manageable. Reorganizing manager positions in the fire department is important as it is labor-intensive and therefore helps reduce costs. A small organization allows regular special contact between members, facilitating the coordination of activities. If incidents are not effectively responded to, the management will be seen as rigid. Therefore, a top priority for fire departments is to be flexible so as to help attend to incidents effectively and efficiently. One of the methods that fire departments adopt to obtain flexible operations is by having appropriate equipment and proper training of workers. Moreover, effective leadership is important for every organization to be functioning effectively. Recently, the Emergency Management Director has been given the role of a fire chief. He/she is responsible for setting objectives and goals, orders, and plans of the department in order to provide for a successful operation of the organization. He/she is the one required to produce a strategic plan that will be used when responding to an emergency as the main aim of a fire department is to ensure that a community is well protected from any dangers of uncontrolled fires because it will help save lives of many people that may be affected and prevent the loss of property.

He/she creates a vision statement of how the department will be working or how it will be in future following a planned structure that will support it. He/she also drafts a timeline that will help the department accomplish its tasks. In case of an incident, he or she is responsible for assigning an appropriate team to respond to the incident as having a specific team respond to an emergency will make it easier to track reports so as to create a good timeline that will be easier for the community to understand how the emergency was dealt with. If time used to respond to the incident is insufficient, the director will be required to provide more resources for the incident be dealt with. Successful fire departments are those where members work as a team and have a good leader who will ensure that workers are grouped into teams. Therefore, the director will be required to act as an effective leader. The director ensures that right safety measures are used to minimize the risk of other fatal incidences. He/she also ensures that firefighters are well-trained and highly motivated. The director is required to build a certain level of trust with firefighters as this will help build up a nice agreement during emergencies. The director supports his/her team in the activities being done, which helps him/her develop a two-way respect from his/her team as the team will feel that their leader cares about them and would never threaten their safety (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2008).

Fire department's responsibilities continue to be numerous for the Emergency Management Director as he/she is the one required to lead in all activities of the department. Being a good leader enables to persuade people to take a certain action to achieve a certain goal. According to Mintzberg (2010), a manager's position is categorized into many roles, which are acting as a figurehead, leader, liaison, disseminator, monitor, spokesman, disturbance handler, entrepreneur, negotiator, and lastly a resource allocator. A figurehead means that a manager or director is performing his/her symbolic roles and duties on behalf of the organization. Therefore, a fire chief in his/her uniform attends to functions as a representative of the fire department. Acting as the leader is when he or she empowers and motivates the personnel in the fire department. When the fire officer relates with other agencies or administrations on behalf of the fire department, he/she is seen acting as a liaison. A fire chief is also required to collect information about planned standards, share important information with the rest of the fire department, and communicate information to administrations outside the fire department like the media (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2008).

Mintzberg also discusses that a fire chief has to seek opportunities with the local government in order to position the fire department in a better place so that it can accomplish its mission, exceed, and meet needs and anticipations of its stakeholders. This works when the fire chief utilizes SWOT analysis so as to benefit their department and the community they are serving by identifying the environmental opportunities like partnering with other organizations and identifying feasible approaches that will help minimize environmental threats. The fire chief also attends to citizens' protests or disciplinary problems in the fire department. He ensures that resources are allocated effectively in the fire department; he does this mostly when there is an emergency incident. He may also be at times be engaged in formal or informal negotiations on behalf of the fire department (Abbott & Hetzel, 2005).

Therefore, looking at these responsibilities, they appear to be too numerous for the Emergency Management Director to act as a fire chief at other times since acting as a fire chief appears to be very demanding. It requires the EMD to be working full-time in the fire department, which may be very hard as he has his/her own other duties in the emergency department. Therefore, these responsibilities need to be delegated to some other individual or organ of the government other than the EMD. Most importantly, an individual with who has mastered the science of fire services and rescue services and also has professional management practices can be given the job of working as a fire chief. What is really required from the fire chief is his/her ability to lead and creating a departmental culture of safety and customer service. He should also be able to professionally manage a professional fire department. The individual is also required to act as a team player as his/her aim is to solve the community's needs effectively, which will greatly benefit the union. A problem comes in where the fire chief thinks that he or she is the king of queen of the respective field and does not require anyone else. This mostly results in conflicts, which may undermine reputation and effectiveness of achieving safety of the public, which is the ultimate target. To achieve this, he or she has to understand the priorities of the local government to help in attaining public safety. Therefore, having a competent leader who is a team player can effectively relieve the EMD of the fire chief's responsibilities and he/she will then be able to concentrate on his/her main task of responding to emergencies so as to ensure the public safety of the community (Maguire, 2006).

Conclusion

Emergencies are a manifestation of nature and can take place anywhere anytime. Some of them can be predictable like yearly floods and these need people to learn suitable measures for reducing effects of such floods. However, cases like fire are unpredictable. Therefore, it is always necessary to be prepared. The principle of providing an immediate rescue and relief operation consists in having a timely and quick response to unpredictable incidents. It is a responsibility of emergency departments and local governments always to be in a state of preparedness so as to provide assistance to affected people in an incident. A formulation of new emergency response programs is required for the emergencies to be minimized. Incidents like earthquakes and fire require a more effective and efficient mitigation strategy since their occurrences are not easily predicted. Besides, a good plan is required to effectively respond to such incidents. Good leadership is also required. A combination of several attributes of leadership styles is convoluted in case of an emergency. Responsibilities of an emergency management director are enough to show that a leader has many activities to do in case of an emergency, for instance, in a fire incident, the director is required to act as a firefighter to show a good example to his team. A good communication strategy is also required in case of transcendence from a relief-oriented to a mitigation-focused methodology in order to implement a complete and effective preventive strategy, which is the main target of an emergency manager or director.

References

  1. Abbott, E. B., & Hetzel, O. J. (2005). A legal guide to homeland security and emergency management for state and local governments. Chicago, IL: Section of State and Local Government, American Bar Association.
  2. Haddow, G. D., Bullock, J. A., & Coppola, D. P. (2008). Introduction to emergency management (3rd ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann.
  3. Maguire, R. (2006). Safety cases and safety reports meaning, motivation and management. Aldershot: Ashgate.
  4. McCrie, R. D. (2007). Security operations management (2nd ed.). Boston, M A: Butterworth-Heinemann/Elsevier.
  5. Process safety management. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.