Natural hazard services include a wide range of activities, many of which are allied with public safety, but can also be taken to include natural resource management, land-use planning, and other related activities. These activities are considered to be part of emergency management, and have come to be seen as a public sector responsibility even though they are often carried out by contractors. They take place across all of the phases of the emergency management cycle: response, recovery, mitigation, and preparedness. The prevalence of private sector utilization is such that many services, such as hazard mitigation planning, grants administration, and various components of recovery, can be argued to be largely privatized due to the extent of market penetration and control from the private sector, including in the creation of policy and its implementation. However, there are unique challenges that arise when private-sector provision of services, and not just products, is utilized. Partnerships and other collaborative models are utilized frequently, including not just private sector firms, but also non-profit organizations, academic institutions, community organizations, and other groups to help overcome these challenges.
Natural disasters cause massive social disruptions and can lead to tremendous economic and human losses. Given their uncertain and destructive nature, disasters invariably induce significant governmental responses and typically pose severe financial challenges for jurisdictions across all levels of government. From a public finance perspective, disasters cause governments to incur additional spending on various emergency management activities, and by disrupting normal business activities they also affect tax base robustness and cause revenue losses. The question is: How significant are these fiscal effects and how do they affect hazards governance more generally? Understanding the fiscal implications of natural disasters is essential to evaluating the size of the economic costs of disasters as well as forecasting governments’ financial exposure to future shocks. Furthermore, how disaster costs are shared among different levels of government is another important question concerning the intergovernmental dynamics of disaster management. In the U.S. federal system, the direct fiscal costs of natural disasters (i.e., increased government expenditures due to disaster shocks) are largely borne by the federal government. It is estimated that Hurricane Katrina cost the federal government approximately $120 billion while Hurricane Sandy cost $60 billion. Even in the years without large-scale disaster events, federal disaster spending is between $2 billion and $6 billion annually. Under the Stafford Act, the federal government plays a critical role in funding disaster-related programs (e.g., direct relief, mitigation grants, and subsidized insurance programs) and redistributing the actual costs of natural hazards, meaning that a considerable portion of the local disaster burden is shifted to all U.S. taxpayers. This raises a set of issues concerning the equity and efficiency of the U.S. disaster policy framework. Managing disasters involves multiphased activities to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster shocks. There is a common belief that the federal government inappropriately spends far more on ex post disaster response, relief, and recovery than what it spends on ex ante mitigation and preparedness, often driven by political motivations (e.g., meeting voters’ preferences for postdisaster aid) and the current budget rules. As pointed out by many others, federal disaster relief and assistance distort the subnational incentive to invest in local disaster prevention and mitigation efforts. Furthermore, given the mounting evidence on the cost-effectiveness of disaster mitigation programs in reducing future disaster damages, the current practice of focusing resources on postdisaster assistance means substantial public welfare losses. In recent years there has been a call for the federal government to shift its disaster policy emphasis toward mitigation and preparedness and also to facilitate local efforts on mitigation. To achieve the goal requires a comprehensive reform in government budgeting for emergency management.
Public sector agencies at all levels of government work to mitigate risk, prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters, and recover from catastrophic events. This action is guided by a national emergency management system that has evolved over time and was most recently reformed post-Hurricane Katrina. There is an extensive set of federal guidelines by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency that serve to structure the national system of hazard management. These include: the National Preparedness Goal; the National Preparedness System; National Planning Frameworks and accompanying Federal Interagency Operational Plans (FIOPs); the National Preparedness Report; and the Campaign to Build and Sustain Preparedness. Despite the considerable institutional and administrative guidance, there remain critical gaps in public-agency natural hazard management. These include lack of quality planning on the subnational level, insufficient local fiscal and human capital, and inconsistent regulation of the recovery process. While stricter implementation of federal mandates may partly address some of these issues, others will require greater political will in order to enact zoning regulations, create a shift in the acceptance of risk, and ensure that solutions are afforded by partnerships between civil, economic, and public entities.
Grace Chikoto-Schultz, Yu Xiao, Paul Manson, and Maryam Amiri
Non-profit organizations make significant contributions to society in a number of ways. In addition to providing services to underrepresented, marginalized, and vulnerable populations in our communities, they also play important advocacy, expressive and leadership development, community building and democratization, and innovation-oriented roles. The sector is thus regarded as “critical civic infrastructure,” civic capacity, or a social safety net. As such, through collaborative engagement in disaster or emergency management, non-profits can be even more instrumental in helping communities become disaster resilient. Disaster management can be understood as a four-stage cycle that includes mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery functions. Past disasters demonstrate that non-profits engage with this cycle in diverse ways. A few types of non-profit organizations explicitly include, as part of their mission, one or more of these stages of disaster management. These include traditional disaster relief organizations, organizations dedicated to preparedness, or those responsible for supporting risk reduction or mitigation efforts. Another set of organizations is typified by non-profits that shift their mission during times of disaster to fill unmet needs. These non-profits shift existing resources or skills from their pre-disaster use to new disaster relief functions. The other type of non-profit to respond or support disaster management is the emergent organization. These emergent non-profits or associations are formed during an event to respond to specific needs. They can endure past the disaster recovery period and become new permanent organizations. It is important to remember that non-profits and more broadly, civil society—represent a unique sphere of voluntary human organization and activity separate from the family, the state, and the market. In some cases, these organizations are embedded in communities, a position that grants them local presence, knowledge, and trust. As such, they are well positioned to play important advocacy roles that can elevate the needs of underrepresented communities, as well as instigate disaster management policies that can serve to protect these communities. Furthermore, their voluntary nature—and the public benefit they confer—also position them to attract much-needed resources from various individuals and entities in order to augment or supplement governments’ often limited capacity. In all, civil society in general, is a sphere well positioned to execute the full spectrum of emergency management functions alongside traditional state responses.