Disaster Management: From Theory to Implementation

Document Type : Risk Management


CESPRO-Centre for Civil Protection Studies, University of Florence


This paper reviews contemporary trends in the management of the crisis phase of disasters. It charts the recent history of emergency preparedness in the light of a basic distinction between civil defence and civil protection. As the former has metamorphosed into homeland security and the latter into civil contingencies management, so a distinction has grown between devolved and centralized management of disasters. This has been accompanied by differences in the strategies employed to bring relief to stricken populations, including the extent to which military and paramilitary forces are involved. The question of devolved versus centralized emergency management is considered in the light of its impact on welfare. The paper then reviews some aspects of the management of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in August-September 2005. It seems reasonable to conclude that symbolic aspects of the media and political response tended to provide impetus to discrimination in the provision of aid. In economic terms, disaster involves a complex process of negotiating for resources, in which the marginalized sections of society are almost automatically disadvantaged. The solution lies in making emergency preparedness more democratic, which is a major challenge for the present century. The article ends by establishing ten principles for fair and democratic civil protection.