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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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