Government Emergency Preparedness is Lacking

A recent survey of federal executives by the Government Business Council reveals a lack of confidence in the government's ability to function without significant disruption in the event of a major natural disaster, terrorist attack or other serious emergency.

More than 200 high-ranking federal executives were polled across a variety of agencies, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Health and Human Services, four military branches, and 20 other federal entities. Nearly all executives (93%) believe their individual roles would be critical in the event of a disaster, but only 63% say they could personally perform their duties without significant disruption in such an event. Confidence in the agencies represented by the executives was lower still. Slightly more than half (only 57%) think their particular agency would be able to function in a major emergency without significant disruption.

Large Concerns Spell Additional Disaster

The major concern among the federal executives polled is physical access to their worksite during a disaster and the accessibility of information and resources kept there. Nearly half of the executives (47%) report they would be unable to perform their duties if separated from their primary offices for more than five days. One quarter of respondents (24%) say they are unable to function away from their worksite at all. Consequently, 65% of federal executives who participated in the survey believe that worksite accessibility is the number one operational concern in the event of a disaster, and 54% say lack of access to important data from outside the office is the primary technical concern.

Though the concern for disaster preparedness is significant among the executives surveyed, many believe the resources and training dedicated to proper disaster response is lacking:

  • 80% of the executives believe their agencies could do a better job training and preparing federal workers to seamlessly continue operations during an emergency.
  • Only 56% of executives think they are adequately trained themselves.
  • 57% of respondents say their agency has a published policy or plan to ensure continuity of operations.
  • Only 27% of executives say their agency has dedicated financial resources to continuity planning.
  • 29% of those polled either don't know if their agency even has a published plan for operations during a disaster or admit that their agency has taken no action whatsoever.

According to the executives polled, the solution to efficient operation of federal entities in the event of a catastrophe lies primarily in technical resources. Eighty-five percent of respondents believe remote access to data and office workstations is critical for continuity of operations, and 80% say data backup and recovery systems are essential. Emerging mobile data services were also requested by 66% of executives to improve their agency's ability to continue operations.

"These findings are a clear call to action for the next generation of emergency management and public administration leaders," says Everett Pierce, department chair of Fire Science programs at Anna Maria College. "We've seen recently how important it is for government officials to act quickly and decisively in the moments following a natural or manmade disaster. When students graduate from our Public Administration master's degree program, we expect them to put their educations to the best possible use and address challenges like these. New systems must be built and new procedures implemented to make sure everyone at the federal level is ready for the worst, and leaders with the proper education will be prepared to do just that."

The Government Business Council collected the survey data by questioning a random sample of subscribers to the publication Government Executive. Results were then screened to include only responses from working federal executives with a rank of GS-9 and above.

With the increasing need for emergency management and public administration leaders, having an MPA with specialization in emergency management is more important than ever. Prepare yourself for the opportunities ahead, learn more about the MPA Emergency Management Specialization programs call us at 877-265-3201 or visit us online at

Source: Government Business Council "Continuity of Operations in the Federal Government" report, 2010.