In this psychology of disaster essay, the focus is on resources offered by the City of Miami and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to aid victims recovering from a terrorist attack or natural disaster, and it further analyzes how these resources work and how victims can utilize and find them. Finally, it evaluates how local, state, and federal agencies could better advertise and be more organized to provide meaningful mental health and trauma support to victims of disasters. In emergency scenarios, terrorist attacks, for instance, there is a more compelling reason to ensure a balanced, professional, and accessible psychological support for victims (Silke, 2003).
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The City of Miami
It is imperative to acknowledge that the City of Miami has developed and adopted a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), which offers the common emergency management structure and guidelines. The City of Miami has ensured that its CEMP is strategic and consistent with the specific needs of residents and other structures of the government (City of Miami, 2013). Thus, it is a coordinated plan among the local, state, and federal governments. The two resources identified include the following.
Legal Assistance Resources
The City of Miami, through coordination with FEMA offers legal assistance resources to victims of disasters and terrorism. In association with the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association, the City aims to cater to underserved victims in the community (City of Miami, 2013). Free legal services are usually available for low-income disaster victims, and they target persons and families with disaster-related legal issues. Recovering victims may get legal aid related to the acquisition of new legal documents or replacing missing ones, transferring ownership rights, titles, will probates, contracting issues, insurance complications, and some issues related to the landlord.
The City of Miami works alongside other related agencies to offer recovery facilities to victims of emergencies. For instance, in collaboration with the federal government, the City provides a Joint Field Office (JFO). The JFO was created to ensure effective federal-state coordination of resources from both public and private sources. The Governor has the responsibility of appointing an authorized representative to work alongside federal officers and to cater to the interests of the state. The President also appoints a federal officer to coordinate federal aid and works with a state officer. All the involved officers, both local and state, work closely to deliver facilities to victims of emergencies during recovery.
The Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC’s) are normally established to “manage the cooperative effort between the local, state, and federal government for the benefit of disaster victims, including individuals, families, and small businesses” (City of Miami, 2013, p. 365).
All organizations and agencies involved in the process of aiding victims have their representatives at the DRC. Victims are expected to get assistance following an entrance or exit interview. The Center subsequently recommends the most appropriate referral agencies or organizations, or information that can best cater to their needs based on hazard and assistance categories. Victims are, however, required to register or apply through the provided national tele-registration hotline. FEMA, the City, and the local authority will subsequently act jointly to provide the best assistance through DRCs.
The most notable resource that FEMA offers to the victims of natural disasters and terrorist attacks is the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF). The DRF is a means through which the agency can direct, coordinate, manage, and fund all identified response and recovery efforts for victims of natural disasters and other forms of emergencies that are beyond the control of the state and its resources. It is based on the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. FEMA uses the DRF to financially assist all approved federal disaster support processes.
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The funding may also extend to eligible states, territories, tribes, and local activities like the elimination of debris and emergency protection. Further, the funds are used to cover costs related to repair and restoration, mitigation of hazard, fire management, and financial assistance, which may also account for the damaged public infrastructures.
FEMA also offers individual and family grants, which is administered by State. The agency provides grants to meet severe disaster associated needs and required costs not paid for by insurance or other federal, state, or non-governmental organizations. Additionally, FEMA also gives grants to individuals with serious unmet needs who do not qualify for small business administration (SBA) disaster loans.
How These Resources Work and How Victims can find and utilize them
FEMA considers response to victims as an organized, planned process involving decision-making and assignment of available resources to meet the diverse needs of victims (Manning & Goldfrank, 2002). These resources are deployed with the aim of lessening adverse outcomes on the victims and enhancing recovery. Consequently, more lives are saved, injuries prevented, and property and environment protected. These processes also strive to account for the development of disaster-resistant communities.
Generally, FEMA and other state agencies have developed a bottom-up approach to provide resources to victims of natural disasters and terrorism (Manning & Goldfrank, 2002). In this approach, local jurisdiction plays the most important role in providing resources to the victims, although supplementary aid may be expected from other outside sources. That is, the immediate post-disaster response heavily depends on the local resources, and local and state governments are expected to coordinate and deliver essential resources.
Resources are provided through a network of volunteers, public agencies, business communities, individuals, and non-profit entities, among others. Occasionally, an event or its complexity may overwhelm local resources. As such, external resources from higher-level governments may be required.
Victims get the initial recovery resources from regional sources, which include nearby local governments. Local authorities usually mobilize resources to meet special needs during emergencies. Some large incidents may spread beyond a single local or state jurisdiction and, thus, more resources may be required for adequate management. In cases where an event overwhelms resources from local levels, then the state must get involved in resource mobilization and coordinate with the federal government through FEMA and other established programs. The federal aid generally comes through the state because federal assistance is not planned to replace or eliminate local efforts. Instead, federal aid supplements local efforts.
The bottom-up approach is applied in the US because of the federal model, where sovereignty is shared across various levels of the government (Manning & Goldfrank, 2002). While the federal government is involved in the formulation of laws and the provision of executive orders, local and state authorities have the direct role of protecting and delivering aid to their residents during emergencies. Historically, FEMA has evolved across the years to cater to diverse, complex emergencies, but no federal disaster response program has assumed absolute control and management of local processes unless a local authority transfers such roles (Adamski, Kline, & Tyrrell, 2006).
Victims have been able to receive aid at the local levels because the entire US disaster response has evolved and developed on a shared approach and decentralization of resources and responsibilities. Notably, close collaboration and coordination due to the involvement of diverse resources managed on shared roles across various levels of government and other players have been key features of the aid delivery system in the US (Manning & Goldfrank, 2002).
Therefore, local authorities must identify victims through entrance and exit interviews to ascertain their precise needs and provide the most useful information or referrals. Further, they acquire specialized resources, coordinate external resources, and provide a linkage for federal resources to reach the victims. The State Governor is responsible for ensuring emergency preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. Additionally, the state can mobilize and use emergency financial resources to support the victims.
How Local, State, and Federal Agencies Could Better Advertise and Be More Organized
Under the law, FEMA is mandated to provide public notice of its plan to offer federal aid and grants to victims of natural disasters or terror attacks. The agency accomplishes this goal through the Public Assistance (PA), Hazard Mitigation Grant (HMGP), or Individual Assistance (IA) programs.
Nonetheless, in some instances, people who are more vulnerable in society are not always reached following an emergency. For instance, it has been reported that many older adults fail to register with local authorities or FEMA after a disaster (Petulla, 2011). As such, they fail to get the necessary aid, implying that the message is not reaching the intended audience, and the agencies should be more organized and enhance its public promotion efforts.
These organizations should reach more people across the state. A team at the grassroots level should be sent out to find victims and strongly encourage them to register with local authorities and FEMA. Additionally, the Red Cross and other related organizations can also facilitate this process. FEMA and related organizations should clearly define what they offer to victims in terms of support to aid recovery because some victims believe that they are not eligible for assistance. For instance, under the Department of Agriculture, storm victims from 22 states identified through individual disaster services get food stamps.
Additionally, aid organizations must also emphasize that they can help all eligible applicants irrespective of the number. Some reported cases show that older persons tend to take less with the notion that other victims deserve more than they do (Petulla, 2011). Moreover, it is also necessary to indicate the period in which one can still apply for aid to facilitate the recovery. For instance, FEMA should encourage victims to visit its Web site with all the application details, provide a hotline number, and encourage victims to visit its nearest disaster recovery centers. More importantly, these agencies should encourage their employees to go door-to-door in search of victims.
Victims must also understand that eligibility for aid following a disaster or terror attacks cannot compromise their other benefits, such as Medicaid or Social Security. FEMA must clearly demonstrate that grants and aid under need assistance are not components of incomes and, therefore, do not influence eligibility for assistance following a disaster. FEMA and other organizations should clearly explain all the options available to victims and encourage them to call, register, and apply.
The analysis shows that effective delivery of aid for recovering victims is a shared, coordinated responsibility among the local, state, and federal governments. Additionally, other external organizations also assist, but local authorities have the ultimate responsibility to ensure that victims get the needed assistance.
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Adamski, T., Kline, B., & Tyrrell, T. (2006). FEMA reorganization and the response to Hurricane disaster relief. Perspectives in Public Affairs, 3, 3-36.
City of Miami. (2013). Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. Miami, FL: City of Miami.
Manning, F. J., & Goldfrank, L. (2002). Preparing for terrorism: Tools for evaluating the metropolitan medical response system program. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Silke, A. (2003). Terrorists, victims and society: Psychological perspectives on terrorism and its consequences. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.