Organizational Accountability in Emergency Management 'Literature Review' chapter

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Function #1: Mitigation

At this stage, gradual and long-term steps are taken to ensure that disasters do not occur, or that, when they do, they cause minimal damage. Actions at this stage include the identification of hazards, the research of the causes which generate the disaster, the creation of means in which to modify the causes of the disasters, the development of means which reduce the community's vulnerability to the disaster, the efforts to better consolidate old buildings, the construction of disaster-resistant buildings, the education of the population or the provision of insurance.

At this stage, the responsibilities of the central government include:

The identification of hazards and the research of their causes

The research as to how the causes of the disaster can be modified

The offering of research and development grants to local projects

The promulgation of buildings safety standards

Relative to the competencies of the local governments in the mitigation stages, these include:

The adoption and implementation of zoning

The enforcement of building codes (based on the levels of safety of the buildings), or the Rebuilding of the older facilities to consolidate them

Function #2: Preparedness

At this stage, individuals, organizations and governments implement short-term decisions that will help them better respond to the upcoming disaster. The responsibilities at the central level include:

The offering of intergovernmental grants

The creation of a national emergency management system

The monitorization of risks

The inventory of the available resources

At a local level, the competencies include:

The planning and training for disaster

The early warning and evacuation of the target population

The interagency collaboration and the implementation of aid plans

Function #3: Response

Throughout this stage, action is taken in the immediate aftermath of the disaster to bring relief to victims and to reduce the potential threats of the disaster. In the response to a disaster, the responsibilities of the central government include:

The granting of intergovernmental loans and access to national resources

The collection of data and the assessment of the damages incurred

The restoration of roads and other infrastructure necessary in the resolution of the crisis

The local governments are in charge of:

Maintaining emergency communications

Searching, rescuing and evacuating victims

Organizing medical, fire and police actions

Providing food, water and shelter for the victims

Function #4: Recovery

Finally, in the fourth stage of emergency management, short- and long-term actions are taken to reinstate the people and the buildings' well-being to its pre-disaster state. The responsibilities of the central government at this stage include:

The offering of governmental loans and grants

The restoration of national economic stability

At the local level, the responsibilities of the authorities include:

The restoration of infrastructure (including the removal of debris)

The restoration of public services

The reparation of public and private property

The restoration of individual health and,

The redevelopment of the economy (Donahue and Joyce).

3. Emergency Management of Typhoon Morakot

On the 5th of August 2009, the television and radio stations were transmitting the announcement of the Central Weather Bureau of Taiwan according to which the Typhoon Morakot -- meaning emerald in Thai (The Mirror, 2009) -- was forming at sea. It had begun to form on the 2nd of August, but was initially considered a regular tropical storm. As it gained in size and intensity, the meteorologists paid more attention and eventually upgraded it to a typhoon. Given the 150 kilometers per hour wind speed, Morakot resembled a category 1 hurricane.

On the 7th of August, Morakot hit central Taiwan. Initial reports offered information on heavy rains, few deaths resulting from drowning and few landslides. Yet, as the storms continued, over 500 lives were lost alone in one town buried in land. The heavy rainfalls brought about by the typhoon surpassed the previous record rainfalls brought about by Herb Typhoon. Eleven days after the typhoon had left Taiwan, over 11,000 Taiwanese remained without water and electricity. The total number of people affected by the typhoon rose to nearly 150,000.

On the 9th of August, Morakot moved to China, leaving behind deaths, million dollar losses and a devastated population. The Central Weather Bureau argued that the storms had passed, but urged the citizens living in mountainous regions to remain alert to the possibility of land slides and mudslides in the following days (Kuo, 2009).

The Taiwanese population was not only affected at a socio-economic level by the actual typhoon, but was also emotionally setback due to the tardy and inefficient responses of the federal authorities. From the perspectives of the victims and, as it would soon turn out, from the standpoint of the international community, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou poorly managed the disaster.

The initial response of the authorities was delayed and even as it emerged, the actions taken proved insufficient. President Ma held up making a decision and this delay caused the loss of lives. He originally order that 2,100 soldiers be deployed to the affected regions to conduct the rescue missions. Afterwards, he reconsidered the decision and assigned a total of 46,000 soldiers to be in charge of rescue operations.

Days after the disaster, as he visited the town of Xiaolin, entirely buried by a mudslide (in which 500 people were killed), the Taiwanese president stated his commitment that the mudslide was not the result of the typhoon, but the result of the construction works that had been commenced 5 years before. The construction project to which he was referring is called the Tsengwen Reservoir Water Diversion Project and the blaming of this site for the mudslide proved the lack of accountability on the part of the central government, with the consequent result of increased populous dissatisfaction.

During the same press conference, the president argued that the intervention of the government was in accordance with the estimations of the situations, but that the intensity of Typhoon Morakot had taken them by surprise. He also stated that the government had launched several actions, but that these were delayed due to independent variables. "Pressed by the fear of a party collapse in upcoming elections scheduled for the end of the year, today Ma went to visit the village of Hsiaolin, among the most affected by the flooding. Yesterday he held a press conference in which he defended the actions of his government highlighting that the strength of the typhoon was completely unexpected, that delays in aid were caused by the impossibility of transport and of rescue helicopters being able to take off. In an attempt to restore the image of the military, Ma has also said that he will create an agency to deal with disasters (a kind of Civil Protection) by re-organizing military troops" (Asia News, 19 August 2009). He also stated that an investigation would be launched to assess the eventual responsibility of the state leaders in the management of the emergency situation. This investigation would however only start the following month.

While President MA was visiting the town of Xiaolin, his Defense Minister handed in his resignation. Other resignations followed, but the premier argued that he would not be accepting any resignations, as the country was faced with more pressing situations, which required assistance, not resignations. The political crisis continued to intensify.

In the aftermath of the disaster, people began to fiercely criticize the delays in the actions of the Taiwanese government, as well as their inability to offer support in the affected regions. Additionally, the president and his cabinet are blamed for having refused international aid from China. The Taiwanese leader publicly offered his apologies for the lack of adequate responsiveness in the management of the crisis, but his and his government's popularity continues to decrease. Two weeks after Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan, the central government allocated a total sum of 100 billion New Taiwan Dollars to the reconstruction of the affected regions (Asia News, 20 August 2009).

The debate focuses on the poor performances of the government in addressing the crisis situation. Yet, the people seldom make the distinction between the central and the local governments, and simply blame the entire federal construction. Some of the complaints forwarded by victims or people related to victims include:

Julien: "I'm Taiwanese and am writing from this country. The government of Mr. MA has been doing a very poor job from the beginning. His supporters don't want to see the fact. Mr. MA was absent from the national scene during the first three days of the disaster. Where was he? What did he do during those three days? He is like a general that believed himself to be a soldier. He doesn't know how to command - or he doesn't want to. I look forward to the day he steps down in 2012, or before that for the better."

Frank Kao: "If you can read Chinese, local news here in Taiwan, and if you do noted Ma's statement at the first time, then you will realize why people here…

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