Sustainability and the local emergency manager


  • Jessica Jensen, PhD
  • Regine Laurence Chauvet, MS



sustainability, recovery, mitigation, emergency management higher education, emergency management practice, planning


Objective: The objective of this study was to explore how local county emergency managers conceptualize sustainability and apply the concept within their jobs.

Design: Qualitative, semistructured telephone and face-to-face interviews were used to collect data from a purposive and convenience sample of local county emergency managers.

Setting: Interviews were conducted with Florida and North Dakota emergency managers.

Subjects, Participants: Twenty-five local county emergency managers participated in this study.

Results: The study demonstrated that there is a lack of definitional clarity in emergency manager conceptualizations of sustainability. Nevertheless, emergency managers apply the concept to their jobs in important ways.

Conclusions: Emergency management has the opportunity to further define its role vis-à-vis sustainability and how it does so will have implications for the communities it serves, the professionals who will be tasked with it, and the educators who will support the development of future generations of emergency management professionals.

Author Biographies

Jessica Jensen, PhD

Department of Emergency Management, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota

Regine Laurence Chauvet, MS

Emergency Management Coordinator, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Hollywood, Florida


Ahern J: From fail-safe to safe-fail: Sustainability and resilience in the new urban world. Landsc Urban Plan. 2011; 100: 341-343.

Comfort L: Cities at risk: Hurricane Katrina and the drowning of New Orleans. Urban Aff Rev. 2006; 41(4): 501-506.

Comfort L: Designing disaster resilience and public policy: Comparative perspectives. J Comp Policy Anal. 2012; 14(2): 109-113.

Greene R, Greene D: Resilience in the face of disasters: Bridging micro- and macro-perspectives. J Hum Behav Soc Environ. 2009; 19: 1010-1024.

Mileti D: Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 1999.

Sapountzaki K: Vulnerability management by means of resilience. Nat Hazards. 2012; 60: 1267-1285.

McEntire DA: Sustainability or invulnerable development: Proposals for the current shift in paradigm. Aust J Emerg Manag. 2000; 15(1): 58-61.

McEntire DA, Fuller C, Johnston C, et al.: A comparison of disaster paradigms: The search for a holistic policy guide. Public Admin Rev. 2002; 62(3): 267-281.

McCreight R: Resilience as a goal and standard in emergency management. J Homel Secur Emerg Man. 2010; 7(1): article 15.

Schneider RO: Hazard mitigation and sustainable community development. Disaster Prev Manag. 2002; 11(2): 141-147.

Schneider RO: A strategic overview of the new emergency management. Washington, DC: FEMA, 2004. Available at Accessed October 8, 2014.

Beatley T: The vision of sustainable communities. In Burby R (ed.): Cooperating with Nature: Confronting natural Hazards with Land Use Planning for Sustainable Communities. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 1998: 233-262.

Burby RJ (ed.): Cooperating with Nature: Confronting Natural Hazards with Land Use Planning for Sustainable Communities. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 1998.

Celik S, Corbacioglu S: Inter-organizational coordination: Analysis of 2011 Van earthquake. Paper presented at Disaster Resiliency Workshop, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, 2012.

Dovers S: Sustainability and disaster management. Aust J Emerg Manag. 2004; 19(1): 21-25.

Esnard AM: Beyond semantics and the immediate postdisaster period: Community quality of life as an overarching theme for sustaining collective action. Nat Hazards Rev. 2003; 4(3): 159-165.

Geis D, Kutzmark T: Developing sustainable communities: The future is now. Public Manag. 1995; 77(8): 4–13.

Kahan JH, Allen AC, George JK: An operational framework for resilience. J Homel Secur Emerg Manag. 2009; 6(1): article 83.

King D: Issues in identifying climate change adaptation within community hazard mitigation. Int J Emerg Manag. 2010; 7(3-4): 269-280.

Schwab J, Topping K, Eadie C, et al.: Policies for guiding planning for post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. In Schwab J, Topping K, Eadie C, et al. (eds.): Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction. Washington, DC: FEMA, 1998: 43-74.

Chakos A, Schulz P, Tobin L: Making it work in Berkeley: Investing in community sustainability. Nat Hazards Rev. 2002; 3(2): 55-67.

Knott G, Fox A: A model of sustainable risk management. Mag Emerg Planning Soc. 2010; 62: 38-42.

Pinto CA, McShane MK, Pathak AS: Delayed-bang approach towards more sustainable critical infrastructure risk management. J Homel Secur Emerg Manag. 2011; 8(1): article 23.

Sato M, Seki M: Sustainable business, sustainable planet: A Japanese insurance perspective. Geneva Pap. 2010;35:325-335.

Izadkhah YO, Hosseini, M: Sustainable neighborhood earthquake emergency planning in megacities. Disaster Prev Manag. 2010; 19(3): 345-357.

Shah Alam Khan M: Disaster preparedness for sustainable development in Bangladesh. Disaster Prev Manag. 2008; 17(5): 662-671.

Mandarano L: Sustainable land-use planning: Revitalizing a flood prone office park. J Environ Plann Manag. 2010; 53(3): 183-196.

Britton NR: Whither the emergency manager? Int J Mass Emerg Disasters. 1999; 17(2): 223-235.

Drabek TE, Hoetmer GJ (eds.): Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Government. Washington, DC: International City/County Management Association, 1991.

Stehr S: The changing roles and responsibilities of the local emergency manager: An empirical study. Int J Mass Emerg Disasters. 2007; 25(1): 37-55.

Waugh W: Local emergency management in the post-9//11 World. In Waguh W, Tierney K (eds.): Emergency Management: Principles and Practices for Local Government, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: ICMA, 2007: 4-23.

Beatley T: Promoting sustainable land use: Mitigating natural hazards through land use planning. In: National Committee on Property Insurance, Forum, Insurance Institute for Loss Reduction. Natural disasters: Local and global perspectives. Proceedings of the 1993 Annual Forum, Parc Fifty Five Hotel, San Francisco, CA, December 9, 1993. Boston, MA: The National Committee on Property Insurance, 1994.

Bechtol V, Laurian L: Restoring straightened rivers for sustainable flood mitigation. Disaster Prev Manag. 2005; 14(1): 6-19.

Bender S: Preparacion en caso de desastres y desarrollo sostenible. Desastres y Sociedad. 1993; 1(1): 98-102.

Garnett JD, Moore M: Enhancing disaster recovery: Lessons from exemplary international disaster management practices. J Homel Secur Emerg. 2010; 7(1): article 40.

Godschalk DR, Beatley T, Berke PR, et al.: Natural Hazard Mitigation: Recasting Disaster Policy and Planning. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1999.

Lewis J: Housing construction in earthquake-prone places: Perspectives, priorities and projections for development. Aust J Emerg Manag. 2003; 18(2): 35-44.

Lindsay J: The determinants of disaster vulnerability: Achieving sustainable mitigation through population health. Nat Hazards. 2003; 28: 291-304.

May PJ, Burby RJ, Ericksen N, et al.: Environmental Management and Governance: Intergovernmental Approaches to Hazards and Sustainability. London, New York: Routledge Press, 1996.

Meo M, Ziebro B, Patton A: Tulsa turnaround: From disaster to sustainability. Nat Hazards Rev. 2004; 15(1): 1-9.

Mitchell JK: Coping with natural hazards and disasters in megacities: Perspectives on the twenty-first century. GeoJournal. 1995; 37(3): 303-311.

Munasinghe M, Clarke C (eds.): Disaster Prevention for Sustainable Development: Economic and Policy Issues. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/ The World Bank, 1995.

Pearce L: Disaster management and community planning, and public participation: How to achieve sustainable hazard mitigation. Nat Hazards. 2003; 28: 211-228.

Prevatt DO, Dupigny-Giroux LA, Masters FJ: Engineering perspectives on reducing hurricane damage to housing in CARICOM Caribbean islands. Nat Hazards Rev. 2010; 11(4): 140-150.

Rosowsky DV: Recovery: Rebuilding a resilient housing stock. Int J Disaster Resilience Built Environ. 2011; 2(2): 139-147.

Salkin PE: Sustainability at the edge: The opportunity and responsibility of local governments to most effectively plan for natural disaster mitigation. Environ Law Rep. 2008; 38: 10158-10170.

Schwab AK, Brower DJ, Mitigation Initiative Group: Sustainable development and natural hazards mitigation, January 1999. Available at Accessed October 8, 2014.

Schwab AK, Brower DJ: Increasing resilience to natural hazards: Obstacles and opportunities for local governments under the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. Environ Law Rep. 2008; 38: 10171-10186.

Shaw R, Gupta M, Sarma A: Community recovery and its sustainability: Lessons from Gujarat earthquake of India. Aust J Emerg Manag. 2003; 18(2): 28-34.

Shrubsole D: From structures to sustainability: A history of flood management strategies in Canada. Int J Emerg Manag. 2007; 4(3): 183-196.

Smith G: Planning for sustainable and disaster resilient communities. In Pine JC (ed.): Natural Hazards Analysis: Reducing the Impact of Disaster. London, UK: Taylor & Francis Group. 2009: 221-247.

Schwab AK, Eschelbach K, Brower D: Hazard Mitigation and Preparedness. Hoboken: Wiley & Sons, 2006.

Smith G, Wenger D: Sustainable disaster recovery: Operationalizing an existing agenda. In Rodriguez H, Quarantelli EL, Dynes R (eds.): Handbook of Disaster Research. New York, NY: Springer, 2007: 234-257.

Arlikati S, Andrew SA: Housing design and long-term recovery processes in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Nat Hazards Rev. 2012; 13(1): 34-44.

Chang Y, Wilkinson S, Brundson D, et al.: An integrated approach: Managing resources for post-disaster reconstruction. Disasters. 2011; 35(4): 739-765.

Cronin V, Guthrie P: Community-led resettlement: From a flood-affected slum to a new society in Pune, India. Environ Hazards. 2011; 10: 310-326.

Hayles CS: An examination of decision making in post disaster housing reconstruction. Int J Disaster Resilience Built Environ. 2010; 1(1): 103-122.

Nakagawa S, Shaw R: Social capital: A missing link to disaster recovery. Int J Mass Emerg Disasters. 2004; 22(1): 5-34.

Palliyaguru R, Amaratunga D, Haigh R: Integration of disaster risk reduction into infrastructure reconstruction sector: Policy vs practice gaps. Int J Disaster Resilience Built Environ. 2010; 1(3): 277-296.

Wiek A, Ries R, Thabrew L, et al.: Challenges of sustainable recovery processes in tsunami affected communities. Disaster Prev Manag. 2010; 19(4): 423-437.

Becker J, Saunders W: Enhancing sustainability through prevent recovery planning. Plann Quart. 2007; 164: 14-18.

Meyer S, Henry E, Wright RE, et al.: Post-disaster redevelopment planning: Local capacity building through pre-event planning. J Disaster Res. 2010; 5(5): 552-564.

Shaw R, Goda K: From disaster to sustainable civil society: The Kobe experience. Disasters. 2004; 28(1): 16-40.

Al-Nammari FM: Sustainable Disaster Recovery of Historic Buildings, the Case of San Francisco After Loma Prieta Earthquake [dissertation]. College Station: Texas A&M University, 2006.

Al-Nammari FM, Lindel MK: Earthquake recovery of historic buildings: Exploring cost and time needs. Disasters. 2009; 33(3): 457-481.

Jigyasu R: From natural to cultural disaster: consequences of postearthquake rehabilitation process on cultural heritage in Marathwada region, India. Paper presented at International Conference on the Seismic Performance of Traditional Buildings, Istanbul, Turkey, January 2001.

Berke PR: Natural hazard reduction and sustainable development: A global assessment. J Plan Lit. 1995; 9(4): 370-382.

Berke PR, Beatley T: After the Hurricane: Linking Recovery to Sustainable Development in the Caribbean. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Berke PR, Kartez J, Wenger D: Recovery after disaster: Achieving sustainable development, mitigation, and equity. Disasters. 1993; 17(2): 93-109.

Labadie JR: Auditing of post-disaster recovery and reconstruction activities. Disaster Prev Manag. 2008; 17(5): 575-586.

Lane H: Sustainable development versus economic growth: A case study on natural disaster in Nicaragua. J Environ Dev. 2000; 9(2): 175-182.

McAllister I: Sustaining Relief with Development: Strategic Issues for the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1993.

Pinera JF, Reed RA: Maximizing aid benefits after urban disasters through partnerships with local water sector utilities. Disaster Prev Manag. 2007; 16(3): 401-411.

Pyles L: Neoliberalism, INGO practices and sustainable disaster recovery: A post- Katrina case study. Community Dev J. 2009; 46(2): 168-180.

Trim PRJ: An integrative approach to disaster management and planning. Disaster Prev Manag. 2004; 13(3): 218-225.

Bundy S: Coordination in Disaster Recovery: Implications for Policy and Practice [dissertation]. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University, 2013.

Jensen J, Bundy S, Thomas B, et al.: The county emergency manager's role in recovery. Int J Mass Ermerg Disasters. 2014; 32(1): 157-193.

Phillips B: Disaster Recovery. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2009.

McEntire DA (ed.): Comparative emergency management book project. Emmitsburg: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Management Institute, 2009. Available at Accessed October 8, 2014.

Rubin C: Long term recovery from disasters – The neglected component of emergency management. J Homel Secur Emerg. 2009: 6(1): article 46.

Waugh W Jr, Tierney K (eds.): Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Governments. Washington, DC: International City/County Management Association, 2007.

Rubin HJ, Rubin IS: Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data, 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications, 2005.

Berke P, Cooper J, Salvesen D, et al.: Disaster plans: Challenges and choices to build the resiliency of vulnerable populations. Int J Mass Emerg Disasters. 2010; 28(3): 368-394.

Lindell M, Prater C, Perry R: Fundamentals of emergency management. Washington, DC: FEMA, 2006. Available at Accessed October 8, 2014.

Lindell M, Perry R: Planning and preparedness. In Waugh W, Tierney K (eds.): Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Governments. Washington, DC: International City/County Management Association, 2007: 58-88.

Jensen J: NIMS in rural America. Int J Mass Emerg Disasters. 2009; 27(3): 218-249.

Canton L: Emergency Management: Strategies and Concepts for Effective Programs. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 2007.

Federal Emergency Management Agency: Principles of Emergency Management. Washington, DC: FEMA, 2007.

McGuire M: The new professionalism and collaborative activity in local emergency management. In O'Leary R, Bingham L (eds.): The Collaborative Public Manager: New Ideas for the Twenty-First Century. Washington, DC: Georgetown Press, 2009: 71-93.

Perry R, Lindell M: Emergency Planning. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2006.

Brooks M: Planning Theory for Practitioners. Chicago: Planners Press, American Planning Association, 2002.

Forester J: Ethics of planning: What profiles of planners can teach us about practical judgment and moral improvisation. In Forester J (ed.): The Deliberative Practitioner: Encouraging Participatory Planning Processes. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001: 221-241.

Nicholson W: Emergency planning and potential liabilities for state and local government. State Local Gov Rev. 2007; 39(1): 44-56.

Burby R: Making plans that matter: Citizen involvement and government action. J Am Plann Assoc. 2003; 69(1): 33-49.

Evans-Cowley J, Gough M: Citizen engagement in post-Hurricane Katrina planning in Harrison County, Mississippi. Cityscape. 2008; 10(1): 21-38.

Godschalk D, Brody S, Burby, R: Public participation in natural hazard mitigation policy formation: Challenges for comprehensive planning. J Environ Plann Manag. 2003; 46(5): 733-754.

Creighton J: The Public Participation Handbook: Making Better Decisions Through Citizen Involvement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

Berke P, Godschalk D: Searching for the good plan: A metaanalysis of plan quality sties. J Plan Lit. 2009; 23(3): 227-240.

Laurian L, Day M, Backhurst M, et al.: What drives plan implementation?. Plans, planning agencies and developers. J Environ Plann Manag. 2004; 47(4): 555-577.



How to Cite

Jensen, PhD, J., and R. L. Chauvet, MS. “Sustainability and the Local Emergency Manager”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 12, no. 5, Sept. 2014, pp. 353-66, doi:10.5055/jem.2014.0200.