Problems and Difficulties in the Use of Local EOC's in Natural Disasters

Quarantelli, E. L.
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Disaster Research Center
Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) have become in recent years standard features of disaster activities in most American communities. This brief report examines some of the problems and difficulties associated with their use during time of stress. The observations reported are drawn form an analysis of the data gathered by the Disaster Research Center (DRC) in actual field studies of nearly 100 different disasters since late 1963. Thus, the report covers the functioning of local EOCs in almost all major natural catastrophes and many moderate magnitude in the United States in the last eight years, as well as their use in some related community emergencies (e.g., major explosions, forest fires, dam breaks, etc.) Since our purpose is to arrive at generalizations and to establish common elements, specific disasters and localities and organizations are not identified in the report. It should also be noted that our focus is explicitly on problems and difficulties. This is because we are interested in noting implications for disaster and emergency planning. Such a focus should not obscure the general point, which we shall restate later, that the concept of a local EOC for disaster purposes is a very valid one, and that most function relatively well in most emergencies. Our highlighting of problems and difficulties, however, is an attempt to suggest and imply ways of further improving their efficiency and effectiveness in crisis situations. We should also note that as pre-planned EOCs have become standard features of local American community life in the last few years, some of the following observations were more relevant in the past than now. Likewise, our observations are less applicable to disaster prone communities than to areas with little disaster experiences. However, while these qualifications are necessary in specific instances, nevertheless, what follows is probably a rather accurate picture of the problems and difficulties in the use of local EOCs in natural disasters in American society.
EOC's , Emergency Operation Centers , obervations , natural disaster