Informational memo

Informational memo




Date due



To: James Donald ,City Manager
From: Mary Harris, Emergency Manager
cc: City council staff
Date: April 14, 2015
Re: Emergency response at local, state and federal level

The Portland city council has been considering the possibility of getting external funding to effectively manage and respond to emergencies. Due to concerns raised by some members of staff about loss of local control because of state or federal funding. I have endeavored to do a thorough research on the coordination and role of local, state and federal levels in regard to emergencies, having been requested by Mr. James Donald, the Portland city manager

Well-meaning members of staff have expressed their reservation about seeking and accepting state or federal grants in for emergency response and management but it is important to remind members of staff that disaster preparedness and staff requires coordination and working together of all levels of government (Bentley and Waugh, 2005).Most disasters and emergencies occur at the local level and the responsibility to offer first response falls to the local authority. The local government has full control of all assets used in response and recovery efforts. When a disaster strikes the local authority can activate mutual aid, declare a local state of emergency and if overwhelmed request for assistance from the state .As Kettl (2003) found out, each emegercency or disaster presents a unique challenge requiring a tailored response.

The state and federal levels of government also have a role to play in emergency management response. Hood (1998) points out that most disasters can be averted if only there is good coordination and authority structures. The emergency response system is designed in such a systematic way that it seamlessly moves from one stage to another. For instance, after receiving a request for assistance from a local authority, the state government evaluates the local situation and asses the magnitude of the disaster .The state government can declare a state of emergency and request for federal assistance if the situation is beyond the capacity of the state.

On the other hand, once the federal government has received a request it, in conjunction with the two levels (local and state) conducts a preliminary damage assistance (PDA) to ascertain the damage made to private and public property. The PDA is also meant to identify potential mitigation activities to be undertaken before another disaster strikes. It is the role of the federal government to provide resources for emergency response, especially if the local and county governments are unable to. It is important to mention that federal assistance can be denied under some circumstances.

The department of homeland security (DHS) has a crucial role to play in emergency management response, it coordinates all incident management activities and utilizes resources (PA Times, 2005).The DHS is highest level of emergency and disaster response at the federal level with various arms under it such as the federal emergency management agency (FEMA).

FEMA is in charge of coordinating and implementing the federal response plan (FRP) hence all states are obligated to work with FEMA in order to access federal assistance. FEMA also meets the needs of affected families in case of disasters, an example is the tropical storm Irene that hit the east coast in 2011, FEMA approved more than $16 million in aid of affected families and individuals. As Shea (2006) points out, FEMA has taken various steps to improve coordination and emergency response especially after hurricane Katrina. Such steps include improvements on collaboration with local and state level actors to identify gaps in emergency response mechanisms.FEMA has also developed an improved tracking and logistic system.

There was great integration efforts in October 2012 when hurricane Sandy hit the eastern United States. The local and state government took a leading role in mobilization of people and coordinating emergency response. The federal government also responded by releasing $ 60 billion total in emergency spending. The response would not have been successful without non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army .The Salvation Army provide free meals to the affected while the American Red Cross mobilized more than 1000 disaster worker and provide shelter. Another example, is the response to the tropical storm Irene that hit parts of central Vermont in August 2011. The impact of the disaster was overwhelming to local and state authorities hence regional commissions such as two rivers-Outtauquechee regional commission (TRORC) stepped in. TRORC helped in mapping coordinating recovery response. The federal government through FEMA offered town up to 75% of the cost of acquiring property damaged by floods.

Finally, in light of this finding I would like to ask our members to carefully study this memo to reach an informed decision. I will be glad to discuss this with you.


Bentley, E. and Waugh, W., Katrina and the necessity for emergency management standards

(Ed.), Journal of Emergency Management, Vol. 3, No. 5, 9–10

Hood, C.,The Art of the State: Culture, Rhetoric, and Public Management, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998, 25.

Kettl, D., Contingent coordination: Practical and theoretical problems for homeland security,

American Review of Public Administration, Vol. 33, 2003, pp. 253-277.

PA Times, Homeland security secretary announce new agenda for DHS, American Society of Public Administration, August 2005, Vol. 28, No. 8, p. 2.

Shea, R.F., FEMA Reengineering for Catastrophe Readiness and Response, Acting

Director of Operations, FEMA, presentation at Emergency Management and Home-land Security/Defense Higher Education Conference, National Emergency Training Center, Emergency Management Institute, June 5–8,2006.