Intergovernmental Collaboration in Emergency Management: The Case of the September 2009 Georgia Flood
Date of Award
Master of Public Administration (MPA)
The purpose of this study is to explore the various aspects of intergovernmental collaboration in emergency management at the local, state, and federal level. It provides a descriptive analysis of how these mechanisms interact with each other for effective emergency management. Most importantly, this study provides a unique insight on how Georgia prepared for, mitigated against, responded to, and recovered from the September 2009 flood. There are several important mechanisms for intergovernmental collaboration; among them are the national incident management system, the incident command system, and the emergency management assistance compact. During disasters these mechanisms interact with each other to provide for a flexible, adaptable management approach. Local governments that are responsible for responding to disasters receive support from other local, state, and federal agencies depending on the magnitude of the incident. The support they receive is not simply limited to equipment and personnel. They include federal aid ranging from hazard mitigation grants, small business loans, and individual assistance to disaster victims.
Between September 16 and 22, 2009, Georgia experienced an unprecedented amount of rain resulting in over fourteen counties to be declared disaster areas. The United States Geological Survey estimated that the September 2009 was a ―500-year level,‖ which means that the probability of such a thing happening in any given year is less ―than 0.2 percent‖ (McCallum and Gotvald 2010, 1). The flood left 10 people dead, 849 residents impacted, over 32 roads and bridges closed, 20 school districts closed, and financial damages estimated at $250 million (Brett 2009; Georgia Emergency Management Agency 2009a; Federal Emergency Management Agency 2009a). A critical analysis of the aftermath of the flood demonstrated extensive disaster experience as a key factor in successfully handling the incident in Georgia. Unlike Hurricane Katrina where lack of understanding of mechanisms for intergovernmental collaboration delayed response efforts, Georgia authorities have had over thirty disaster declarations that allowed for a successful intergovernmental partnership. The study identifies political, communication, and policy failures that contributed to challenging response and recovery efforts during the flood and makes recommendations for improving emergency management operations. The recommendations include increasing awareness and participation in the National Flood Insurance Program, incorporating better communications strategies, and adopting more effective regulatory hazard mitigation policies at the local level.
The paper concludes with recommendations on how to improve disaster mitigation policies at the local level, increase participation in the national flood insurance program, and improve communication strategies in emergency management.