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Disaster Policy and Politics

Disaster Policy and Politics
Emergency Management and Homeland Security

Third Edition

February 2019 | 632 pages | CQ Press
Disaster Policy and Politics combines evidence-based research with mini-case studies of recent events to demonstrate the fundamental principles of emergency management and to explore the impact that disasters have had on U.S. policy. Paying special attention to the role of key actors—decision makers at the federal, state, and local levels; scientists; engineers; civil and military personnel; and first responders—author Richard Sylves explores how researchers contribute to and engage in disaster policy development and management. The highly anticipated Third Edition explores the radical change in policy and politics after the occurrence of recent disasters such as hurricanes Irma, Maria, and Harvey; Hawaii's false nuclear attack warning; and responses to U.S. wildfires. The book’s comprehensive “all-hazards” approach introduces students to the important public policy, organizational management, and leadership issues they may need as future practitioners and leaders in the field.

About the Author
CHAPTER 1: Disaster Management in the United States
The Montecito Debris Flow Disaster

The Fundamentals

Emergency Management as a Profession

Disasters as a Field of Scientific Research

Presidential Disaster Declarations

Fundamental Challenges of Emergency Management

Phases of Emergency Management


Key Terms

CHAPTER 2: Theories and Approaches of Public Policy and Management Helpful in Disaster Studies
Normative Political Theories

The Role of Theory in Emergency Management

Theory in Disaster Recovery

Knowledge Codification and Knowledge Diffusion Issues

Big Data Analytics and Emergency Management


Key Terms

CHAPTER 3: A Short History of U.S. Disaster Policy
The Cold War and the Rise of Civil Defense

Nationwide Emergency Management

The Birth of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

Disaster Declaration Issues

Disaster Law, Policy, and Public Relations from Reagan to Clinton

All-Hazards Management

The 9/11 Attack Remakes U.S. Disaster Management


Key Terms

CHAPTER 4: Presidential Declarations of Major Disaster or Emergency
The U.S. Constitution and Emergency Powers of the President

The "Policies" and Laws That Established Presidential Disaster Declarations

The “Process” Followed in Requesting Presidential Declarations

The President's "Power" to Decide

The Significance of Post-9/11 Changes

The "Politics" of Presidential Declarations

"Paying" for Presidential Disaster Declarations


Key Terms

CHAPTER 5: The Role of Research, Science, and Engineering
Researching Hazards and Disasters

Disaster Researchers Compete for Government Funding

Social Sciences and Emergency Management

Science Informs the Policy and Politics of Disasters

Public Infrastructure Policy


Key Terms

CHAPTER 6: Intergovernmental Relations in Disaster Policy
Organization of the Chapter

Intergovernmental Program Management

The Frameworks and the National Incident Management System

Intergovernmental Disaster Management Challenges

Government Contractors and Disaster Management


Key Terms

CHAPTER 7: Civil-Military Relations and National Security
Civil Defense to Homeland Security

The Military's Role in Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts

The Military, Homeland Security, and Disaster Policy

The National Guard, the U.S. Armed Forces, and Posse Comitatus

Homeland Security Supplements National Security

State Homeland Security Grants

Operation Stonegarden

Homeland Security Grants and Their Effects at the Local Level

The Emergency Management Performance Grant Program

Replacement of the USA Patriot Act of 2001

The Homeland Security Advisory System


Key Terms

CHAPTER 8: Globalization of Disasters
The U.S. Response System for Territories and Foreign States

Emergency Management in Other Nations

The United Nations and International Disaster Relief

U.S. Domestic Disaster Relief versus the U.S. International Relief System

FEMA versus OFDA

A Case Study: Borderline Disaster: U.S. and Canadian Disasters and Emergencies 1994–2013

The U.S. System of Federal Emergency Management

Canadian Government System of Federal Emergency Management


Bilateral U.S.–Canada Emergency Management Agreements in Brief

Explaining Appendix 8-1

U.S.–Canada Case Conclusions


Key Terms

CHAPTER 9: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria: U.S. Disaster Management Challenged
Impact and Declarations: Hurricane Harvey

Impact and Declarations: Hurricane Irma

Impact and Declarations: Hurricane Maria

Immediate and Short-Term Response




Lessons Learned


Key Terms

CHAPTER 10: Conclusions and the Future
What Has Happened to Federal Emergency Management?

For-Profit Contractors, Slapp Lawsuits, Whistleblowing, and Science Integrity

The Hawaii Nuclear Attack Alert SNAFU and Its Implications

Chapter Takeaways

Key Terms

Master Bibliography
Key features


  • New case studies keep students engaged by humanizing recent disasters such as the Montecito mudslide and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. These case studies also demonstrate how U.S. disaster policy & emergency management has changed over time. 
  • New “Tell Me More” boxes in every chapter provide detailed documentary evidence from the field of disaster policy and emergency management. For example, one box examines President Trump's dispute with the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in which he threatened to suspend the major disaster declaration he had granted the territory.
  • Discussions of three new planning frameworks—Prevention, Protection, and Mitigation—added to the Department of Homeland Security terrorism mission provides students with an introduction to the massive changes occurring under the new “suite of frameworks” and the profound implications for the National Incident Management System.
  • A revised chapter on Civil-Military Relations and National Security (Chapter 7) provides clarification around the role of governor directed military forces and president/Pentagon directed military forces in handling domestic U.S. disasters and incidents.


  • Key concepts are bolded in every chapter and listed again at the end of each chapter to help students easily recognize which terms are important to comprehend.  
  • A master bibliography and index appears at the end of the book to offer instructors and students opportunities to conduct further research. 
  • Research drawn from political science and public administration demonstrates that emergency management continues its maturation into a profession. 
  • A critical look at the civil-military relations and homeland security shows students how the National Guard is an instrument of federal and state government and has long played a role in disaster management. 

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