Case Study: Emergency Management in Smith Hill
Gillespie, et al. (1993) examined the emergency preparedness in Smith Hill (a pseudonym), a St. Louis suburb with a population less than 10,000. The city had a very small tax base and, thus, a very small budget. Elected officials gave low priority to emergency management, so the city did not allocate enough funding to emergency management to qualify for state matching funds. Moreover, the city did not attend the meetings of other interorganizational networks such as the Municipal League, the Disaster Resource Council, and the Regional Emergency Planning Council. When the researchers contacted the city to obtain information about its emergency management program, they were initially directed to the city building commissioner. After arriving for an interview with him, they were redirected to the chief of police and ultimately interviewed a group of six municipal officials—all of whom were assigned emergency management responsibilities as collateral duties. The city had an EOP developed from FEMA guidance, but the organization chart was hand drawn and had not been updated for years. Questioning by the researchers revealed the chart bore no resemblance to the roles the interviewees expected to perform in a disaster. Indeed, the person responsible for city streets was expected to fill most of the positions in the emergency response organization, the police chief was expected to fill two more positions, and the rest were not assigned to any specific individuals. The Smith Hill emergency management organization, such as it was, had direct links only to a fire protection district, its municipal police department, the county medical examiner, and a nearby regional hospital (whose name was identified only after an extended discussion among the interviewees). The Smith Hill emergency management organization had only two structurally unique organizations to connect it (indirectly) to the regional emergency management network and only after extensive probing of the interviewees were they able to name any other organizations that should be added to their contact list. The Smith Hill EOP contained no formal mutual aid agreements, even though the interviewees expected to be able to borrow equipment from neighboring jurisdictions in a disaster.
What are the problems with the Smith Hill Emergency Management organization? How can emergency planning be improved in this town?