Disaster Relief in Human Services

With the recent event of the so-called “super storm” Sandy, it is increasingly in the public consciousness just how critical it is to have top shelf Emergency Management and disaster relief. While the discussion of anthropocentric caused global warming continues to be debated in the public sphere, it is no longer in question that we are seeing dramatic environmental change. Indeed, even the Pentagon has written on environmental changes as being among the most significant security challenges of the 21st century1. As there is no longer a debate as to the severity and seriousness of Climate Change, we are increasingly seeing resources mobilized in an attempt to mitigate the effects of disasters. It is important to also realize that disasters are caused by factors other than climate change including earthquakes, volcanic activity, economic disruption and terrorism. With such a diversity of challenges being faced it is heartening to know that we have an increasing number of agencies and organizations that are training professionals to work in disaster relief. The ways in which one can work within the greater umbrella of disaster relief are quite diverse.

There are numerous non-profits that have existed for decades or even longer that have become some of the de facto frontline workers who are first on the scene in various disasters. From the Red Cross to lesser known but emerging disaster relief groups such as All Hands Volunteers and International Rescue Committee, there are a variety of non-profits that are dedicating to helping their fellow human beings when disaster strikes. Non-profits are often among the most efficient in terms of use of capital compared to output as they often have comparatively limited funding. Non-profits instead rely upon the resourcefulness, ingenuity and enthusiasm of their staff and volunteers from all over the world.

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Government agencies tend to be the biggest sector operating in terms of disaster relief. Most developed countries have allocated considerable sums to agencies dealing with disaster relief. In the case of a disaster the first few days following a catastrophic event are the most critical in terms of saving lives. Knowing this, first world governments will often have several agencies and sub-departments specializing on working to deal with specific types of disasters. Looking for work in a government agency is a great way to ensure that you will have plenty of resources at your finger-tips. If you enjoy working in a regimented system with clearly defined roles, then working in government operated disaster agencies may be an excellent fit.

Increasingly there are public/private partnerships emerging to deal with disaster relief efforts. Due to climate change, economic disruptions and terrorism coming to the forefront of the collective consciousness it is increasingly seen as an opportunity to show the efficiency of the private sector in dealing with the unique sets of problems created by large scale disasters. While still a relatively new player in terms of disaster relief, many experts predict that private organizations will play a significant role in disaster relief in the 21st century.

If you want to learn more about a Human Services career in disaster relief you will want to read our article entitled “Emergency Management Specialist”.

1 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/science/earth/09climate.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0