, Volume 85, Issue 6, pp 910-922
Date: 28 Aug 2008

Preparing for Disaster: Response Matrices in the USA and UK

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Abstract

Disasters, whether man-made or naturally occurring, require complex responses across multiple government agencies and private sector elements, including the media. These factors mandate that, for effective disaster management and because of the unpredictability of such events, response structures must be in place in advance, ready to be activated on short notice, with lines of responsibility clearly delineated and mechanisms for coordination of efforts already established. Disaster response experiences in the USA and the UK were reviewed at a conference convened by the New York Academy of Medicine and the Royal Society of Medicine in June 2007. Lessons to be drawn from these comparisons were sought. The importance of careful advance planning, clear delineation of spheres of responsibility and response roles, effective mechanisms for communication at all levels, and provision for adequate communication with the public were all identified as key elements of effective response mechanisms.

Kahn is with the Program on Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA; Barondess is with the New York Academy of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.