Key Challenges for the Future of Homeland Security and
Emergency Management Education
By Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D.
This article was published in the PA TIMES, Vol. 31, Issue 8, August 2008.
(The PA TIMES is a publication of the American Society for Public Administration.)
At present there are vastly differing definitions of homeland security in use in both the public and private sectors. Indeed there are differing definitions in use within the same governmental entities and among different governmental entities, and within the same educational institutions and among different educational institutions. These differing definitions and perspectives are affecting critical homeland security- and emergency management-related in-service and pre-service educational efforts. Indeed, this state of affairs is affecting the quality of homeland security- and emergency management-related educational efforts within DHS as well as within educational institutions that DHS is influencing throughout the nation. Such educational efforts would seem to be key to building the skills and capabilities critical to enhancing and ensuring the nation's efforts bearing on homeland security and emergency management. This makes it all the more important that we address sooner rather than later these basic questions concerning how we define the nature of homeland security and emergency management and how we approach such efforts. Such common grounding is needed if we are to improve efforts to build the evolving knowledge base of the fields of homeland security and emergency management and translate that knowledge into action.
The following perspective concerning homeland security and emergency management is one that is in keeping with the perspective that can be found in the National Strategy for Homeland Security released by the President on October 5, 2007. This national strategy document can be seen as providing a basis for an integrated approach to homeland security and emergency management, an approach that is at once all-hazards-oriented and an approach that takes into consideration the possible occurrence of catastrophic events from any of the widest range of possible causes.
There are several grounding concepts that may be seen as being key to comprehending the nature and scope of such an all-hazards, integrative approach to homeland security and emergency management. These grounding concepts include the following:
- The Homeland Security Impact Scale: The Homeland Security Impact Scale and its applicability to an All-Hazards Approach to Emergency Management and Homeland Security have been discussed in a report on "Improving Homeland Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection and Continuity," a report that is accessible online at http://gordonhomeland.com. The Homeland Security Impact Scale provides a common frame of reference that can be useful in considering, as well as arriving at a consensus concerning the impacts of disasters. The Homeland Security Impact Scale also provides a common frame of reference that can be useful in considering actions that can be taken to mitigate the impacts of disasters or emergencies of differing levels of severity or to address and help reverse the impacts once they have occurred.
- The Public Safety/National Security Grid. Another grounding concept is that of the Public Safety/National Security Grid. This Grid provides a way of seeing public safety and homeland security as being mutually inclusive. The grid shows a way of viewing the need for a balanced and integrated emphasis on both public safety and homeland security, not one emphasizing one over the other. This grid is similar in nature to the well known Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid. While emphasis on human concerns and emphasis on productivity are ideally brought into balance at the 9,9 position on the Blake-Mouton Grid, concern for public safety and concern for national security are the two areas of concern brought into balance in the Public Safety/National Security Grid.
- A Typology of Emergencies: The last grounding concept being presented here is a Typology of Emergencies of Differing Levels of
Size of Emergency Number of Dead & Injured Roles of Government Approach Characteristics of Care Skill & Training Needs Small Scale Scores Local, State, and Regional Surge of capabilities Manageable Surge capability Medium Scale Hundreds All levels of government Modified Normal to minimal Networked surge capability Large Scale Thousands All levels of government Modified to makeshift Normal to minimal Networked surge capability Catastrophic Scale Millions All levels of government Mostly makeshift Minimal or worse Make do capability Mega-Catastrophe Multi-millions to billions Remaining vestiges of government Totally makeshift Minimal if existent Improvisational skills Adapted from P. Gordon, "Comparative Scenario and Options Analysis: Important Tools for Agents of Change Post 9/11 and Post Hurricane Katrina," Homeland Security Review, Vol. 1 No. 2, 2006 ( http://users.rcn.com/pgordon/homeland/options/Analysis.html)
This Typology of Emergencies is particularly pertinent to an all-hazards approach to emergency management and homeland security. This typology helps clarify the differences in impacts of emergencies of differing levels of severity and the implications of those differences for the emergency management cycle. The Typology of Emergencies also serves to provide a common frame of reference for understanding the need for emphasis on improvisional skills and adaptive skills and capabilities that are particularly needed in addressing larger scale emergencies that overwhelm existing capabilities and resources. These emergencies are ones in which all of the major elements of the critical infrastructure are in a state of failure over a prolonged or significant period of time. For a whole host of reasons, relatively little attention has been placed on emergencies of such size since the 1950s through the early '80s when there was widespread concern regarding the threat of a nuclear war. Today in the post 9/11 world that has included such large scale calamities as the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, there has been a renewed attention given to the importance of planning and preparedness for such catastrophes.
It would seem helpful if those at the forefront of the fields of homeland security and emergency management, be they practitioners, policymakers, or researchers, educators, and trainers, shared a common understanding of the challenges before us and a common sense of mission when it comes to addressing the public safety and national security needs of the nation. Intensive courses of study in both emergency management and homeland security are needed that are based on expanded, compatible, and integrated definitions of homeland security and emergency management. These courses are needed for individuals who are in positions of public as well as private sector responsibility for homeland security and emergency management. Indeed it would be extremely helpful to have intensive courses of study for many of the educators who are developing and teaching homeland security-related courses, as well as for those who are developing policies that influence homeland security education efforts.
If a far more fully grounded and integrated approach to homeland security and emergency management such as is espoused in the National Strategy is to become a reality, the different perspectives concerning the nation's homeland security and emergency management challenges must become more complementary and integrated and the underlying differences in knowledge, experience, skills, and capabilities must be addressed. Above all a common understanding of the nature and gravity of the challenges before us is required more than ever before if we are to move forward motivated by a common sense of mission. Currently there seem to be few people in or out of government, inclined to recognize or address these most basic matters involving the need for a clear definition of the nature and scope of the fields of homeland security and emergency management. In the next few years, more individuals will surely recognize the insubstantial nature of the knowledge base upon which the nation's homeland security efforts currently rest and the implications of this foundational weakness for the nation's security.
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ASPA member Paula D. Gordon is a Practitioner Faculty Member of Johns Hopkins University and developer of http://gordonhomeland.com, a website provided as a free resource to academicians, practitioners, and others working in the fields of emergency management and homeland security. The website includes an extensive List of Selected Homeland Security References and Resources and numerous articles, reports and presentations concerning homeland security and emergency management. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.