Community Emergency Planning: False Assumptions and Inappropriate Analogies

August 1994 (VOL. 12, NO. 2)

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Community emergency planning had its roots in military analogies which viewed emergencies as extensions of “enemy attack” scenarios. Such thinking was embedded in early structural arrangements and was generalized as the appropriate normative model for all emergencies. This model viewed emergencies as conditions of social chaos which could be rectified by command and control. It is argued here that such a view is inadequate based on a knowledge of behavior in emergencies and the model is dysfunctional for planning. A more adequate model is presented, based on conditions of continuity, coordination and cooperation. This problem solving model, based on research rather than military analogies, provides a more adequate set of assumptions as the basis for planning. However, legislative and technological “improvements” often make emergency planning more rigid and increasingly inadequate.