The Changing Roles and Responsibilities of the Local Emergency Manager: An Empirical Study

March 2007 (VOL. 25, NO. 1)

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A number of observers have speculated that a “new” style of emergency management has emerged in the United States in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. To date, there has been relatively little empirical evidence marshaled to assess this claim. This article reports the results of an on-going project designed to track how the staff of an office of emergency management in a large urban region allocate their time on a routine basis. This project began in the late 1990s allowing for a year-by-year comparison of time allotted to different emergency management functions. Among the findings reported here are that prior to 2002 emergency management staff spent the majority of their time on hazard preparedness projects but this time allocation shifted dramatically when a variety of federal homeland security grants became available to state and local governments. This shift in responsibilities may be a sign that domestic security concerns have supplanted the all-hazards approach to emergency management at the local level. But this paper argues that it may also be a product of the manner in which federal homeland security grants are administered and the dynamics of the intergovernmental structure of emergency management in the U.S.