You can’t rebuild homes with Play Doh

I didn't want to write this blog post but then I thought of the title and couldn't not write it. I want to emphasize that though what I have written is based on an analysis of the actions he has taken or not taken thus far, what I have written is extremely speculative. It has to be because he has said so little about emergency management or what future emergency management policy would consist of. 

In February EM Digest produced a great piece on the emergency management philosophy of each candidate. 

As demonstrated, little was known about Trump’s viewpoint. This weekend as Trump landed in Louisiana we caught our first real glimpse of how a Trump administration would handle emergency management. 

He won't listen to state and local government.

During disasters, there is a clear chain of command. Local government, then state government and only then, federal government. Edwards, the governor of Louisiana very clearly asked President Obama and the presidential candidates to wait until after the response was over to come to Louisiana but encouraged them to make a donation in the meantime. Although the governor has since said the visit "was helpful" it is still a problem that he did not listen to state officials. (It's also worth noting that the helpfulness of his visit was solely in getting national media attention, an issue that is not common for disasters as I wrote earlier this week.

He doesn't have a problem diverting assets for personal political gain.   

There is a reason that President Obama does not flock to the scenes of disaster when search and rescue operations are ongoing. The arrival of the president (or presidential candidate) requires the diversion of assets. President Obama waiting to visit Joplin, Missouri and the New York coast post-Sandy until after the initial life-saving response had ended. But even his arrival so soon after caused complaints among volunteers and workers that their resources had to be diverted to facilitate his arrival. That hours, and in some cases days, of critical work were lost for symbolism. 

He probably views emergency management as business continuity.

There’s an argument to be made that Trump does not understand what emergency management is or what an emergency manager does. Coming from a background in business one would assume he is at least tangentially familiar with business continuity; though, a look at his previous business endeavors certainly seems to bring the success of his business continuity into questions. My biggest fear is that he would lean towards a Flint or Atlantic City understanding of emergency management. The Flint “emergency manager” and the Atlantic City “emergency manager” are not in anyway shape or form representative of the profession of emergency management. These misnamed- emergency managers behave like dictators with an amount of authority that is unprecedented within the actual profession of emergency management. [The Dukes of Hazard podcast recently had a good overview of the Flint situation if you’re wondering what I’m talking about.] Trump's relationship to the Atlantic City situation is well documented. This is troubling because it suggests that perhaps his understanding of emergency management is business continuity -- the two are very different. 

He probably won't keep FEMA. 

I have never publicly commented or written about the FEMA Camp truthers before [Don’t @ me] so I'm nervous to go down this road. It would seem that the FEMA conspiracists are Trump supporters. To the extent that Trump cares about doing what his supporters want him to do (which isn't necessarily clear) what are the implications for FEMA. Under a Trump administration, what exactly would happen to FEMA? I speculated a few weeks ago that there seems to be a very real possibility that he would eliminate it all together and I haven't seen anything since that would change my mind. Though we all recognize the problems that FEMA has (many of which are a product of the post-9/11 DHS reorganization) we definitely still need FEMA. The solution is not to eliminate FEMA but rather fix it. 

He will undermine climate change policy.

His views on climate change are something we have a much clearer understanding of — he won’t do anything about it. He thinks it's a hoax invented by the Chinese. So... well, I just don't have much more to say about that. 

He will cut social programs and implement privatization. 

Policy that is outside the purview of explicit emergency management policy has severe implications for how communities and individuals mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Undermining social programs and putting more power into the hands of private industry increases our vulnerability to disasters and has far reaching negative implications for recovery. 


Objectively, there appears to be nothing positive about a Trump presidency for emergency management.