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Article

Scott E. Robinson and Warren S. Eller

Natural hazards governance calls upon a diverse array of actors. The focus of most research—and most media coverage—has long been on governmental actors. Indeed, natural hazards governance relies on a complex arrangement of actors connected from the local, state, and national levels. Local organizations are the initial point of contact and face emerging threats. If the event exceeds the capacity of local organizations to respond, the governance system escalates the problem by expanding the participants to include state-level and, eventually, national-level actors. Natural hazards governance seeks to smooth and rationalize this process of escalation and expansion. Recent research has expanded this view to include nongovernmental actors like charitable organizations, religious institutions, and even private business. While charitable organizations have long been part of natural hazards governance, a broader range of charities, religious institutions, and private-sector companies has recently become more important to practice and scholarship. In many ways, the governance of these nongovernmental organizations resembles the structure of the governmental structure with its emphasis on escalation, expansion, and functional differentiation. Given the inclusion of so diverse a group of cooperating organizations, natural hazards governance faces notable challenges of communication, authority, and reliability.

Article

As with countless other policy areas, natural hazard policy can be viewed as a jurisdictional competition between executive and legislative branches. While policymaking supremacy is delegated to the legislative branch in constitutional democracies, the power over implementation, budgeting, and grant-making that executive agencies enjoy means that the executive branch wields considerable influence over outcomes in natural hazards policymaking. The rules that govern federal implementation of complex legislative policies put the implementing agency at the center of influence over how policy priorities play out in local, county, and state processes before, during, and after disasters hit. Examples abound related to this give-and-take between the legislative and executive functions of government within the hazards and disaster realm, but none more telling than the changes made to US disaster policy after September 11th, which profoundly affected natural hazards policy as well as security policy. The competition and potential for mismatch between legislative and executive priorities has been heightened since the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was reorganized under the Department of Homeland Security. While this may appear uniquely American, the primacy of terrorism and other security-related threats not only dwarfs natural hazards issues in the United States, but also globally. Among the most professionalized and powerful natural hazards and disaster agencies prior to 9/11, FEMA has seen its influence diminished and its access to decision-makers reduced. This picture of legislative and executive actors within the natural hazards policy domain who compete for supremacy goes beyond the role of FEMA and post-9/11 policy. Power dynamics associated with budgets, oversight and accountability, and relative power among executive agencies are ongoing issues important to understanding the competition for policy influence as natural hazards policy competes for attention, funding, and power within the broader domain of all-hazards policy.

Article

Natural disasters pose important problems for societies and governments. Governments are charged with making policies to protect public safety. Large disasters, then, can reveal problems in government policies designed to protect the public from the effects of such disasters. Large disasters can serve as focusing events, a term used to describe large, sudden, rare, and harmful events that gain a lot of attention from the public and from policy makers. Such disasters highlight problems and, as the public policy literature suggests, open windows of opportunity for policy change. However, as a review of United States disaster policy from 1950 through 2015 shows, change in disaster policy is often, but not always, driven by major disasters that act as focusing events. But the accumulation of experience from such disasters can lead to learning, which can be useful if later, even more damaging and attention-grabbing events arise.

Article

Thomas Husted and David Nickerson

Natural disasters pose a significant and rapidly growing burden to society, causing over a million deaths and worldwide economic losses in the trillions of dollars in the last twenty years. Concerned over the extent to which their populations are exposed to disaster risk, policymakers in disaster-prone countries strive to increase the penetration of disaster insurance from its relatively low current level and wish to arrest the increasing share of public liability for private losses arising from rising public expenditures on disaster recovery. Although evidence regarding disaster risk and insurance suggests that individuals respond to their economic incentives when deciding on the degree to which to expose their property and other to risk from a recurrent disaster, potential inefficiencies in private insurance markets can distort these individual incentives and result in underinsurance and excessive exposure. Current research into whether such apparent market inefficiencies are primarily attributed to the behavior of private market participants or to the adverse incentives arising from current programs of disaster aid, regulation and other public policies is of fundamental importance to attaining these policy objectives. This article critically assesses the current state of mainstream economic and political research into disasters, public policy, and household behavior toward disaster risk. Findings of the most important and influential empirical and theoretical studies over the last 30 years are described, as well as limits on the robustness and interpretation of these findings arising from the characteristics of economic data on disasters and potential bias in measuring the determinants of disaster insurance coverage. Also discussed are both theoretical and empirical evidence that moral hazard on the part of households, insurance firms, and elected officials results in misallocations of private coverage; and it is demonstrated that, exactly contrary to the objectives of public policy, current programs of disaster aid in the presence of moral hazard create incentives for households to minimize, rather than maximize, market coverage of their exposure to disaster risk. The conclusion presents and proves a proposition, original to this article, that any compensatory public aid program is necessarily a source of economic inefficiency and, conditional on net losses, decreases economic welfare.

Article

Bureaucratic politics, discretion, and decision-making for natural hazards governance present an important challenge of the use of autonomous bureaucratic discretion in the absence of political accountability. Understanding how these factors influence discretion and policymaking is of critical importance for natural hazards because the extent to which bureaucrats are able to make decisions means that communities will be safer in the face of disaster. But the extent to which they are held accountable for their decisions has significant implications for public risk and safety. Bureaucrats are unelected and cannot be voted out of office. There are two significant areas that remain regarding the use of bureaucratic discretion in natural hazards policy. One key area is to consider the increasing emphasis on networked disaster governance on bureaucratic discretion and decision-making. The conventional wisdom is that networks facilitate disaster management much better than command and control approaches. However, the extent to which the use of bureaucratic discretion is important in the implementation of natural hazard policy, particularly for mitigation and preparedness, remains an open area of research. The other key area is the influence of bureaucratic discretion and decision-making when communities learn after a disaster. The political nature of disasters and the professional expertise of public service professionals imply that in order to make communities safer, bureaucrats will have to use discretion to push forward more aggressive mitigation and preparedness policies. Bureaucratic discretion would need to be used for both political and policy purposes in order to engage in policy learning after disasters that produces a substantive change.

Article

Timothy Mulligan, Kristin Taylor, and Rob A. DeLeo

Policies to manage natural hazards are made in a political context that has three important characteristics: local preferences and national priorities, short-sighted political decision-making, and policy choices informed by experience instead of future expectations. National governments can set broad policy priorities for natural hazard management, but it is often local governments, with conflicting policy priorities and distinctive hazard profiles, that have the authority to implement. Moreover, legislators who are tasked with passing laws to put policies into force are rewarded with reelection by voters who are only concerned with issues that have an immediate impact on their day-to-day lives (e.g., the economy) as opposed to hazards that may or may not occur until some undetermined point in the future. Finally, legislators themselves face challenges making policies to mitigate and manage hazards because they fail to see the longer-term risks and instead make decisions based on past experiences. This article broadly lays out the challenges of the policy environment for natural hazards, including intergovernmental concerns, policy myopia, and shifting policy priorities. It also describes the politics shaping the management of natural hazards, namely, electoral politics, the social dynamics of blame assignment, and the various political benefits associated with disaster relief spending.

Article

The level of interest in public–private partnerships (P3s) is growing—along with supporting literature—and applications are expanding to include new areas where industry supplements public investments in return for measurable rewards. In what follows are timely observations to support P3 operating principles for natural hazards governance—working as an integrated team, sharing innovations, solving technical and operational problems, and engaging in voluntary associations to creatively solve problems. P3s involve voluntary collaboration to achieve common goals and financial benefit. In a globalized economy with highly interconnected systems, this spirit of innovation, sense of personal responsibility, and vision for collective partnerships can be seen throughout the world in the application of P3s. The impact and efficacy of P3s is not just realized in the pursuit of economic, security, safety, social, and environmental goals, but also in establishing integrated governance policies to contend with the persistent vulnerabilities of natural hazards. The emerging world of P3s and natural hazards governance can be illustrated by three real-world examples: (1) a catastrophic regional natural disaster; (2) an urban research-study focused on the measurement of critical infrastructure resilience; and (3) a summary of transportation systems in the unique environment of maritime ports. From these case studies, and a diverse selection of references, it highlights key findings that will benefit future research, critical analysis, and policy application, including academic value, integrated participation, evidence-based metrics, smart resilience, and future innovation.