Managing Disasters: The Role of Local Government


Jeanne-Marie Col is an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. She teaches in the master of public administration program and the master of science program in protection management. From 1990 to 2003, she served as United Nations Senior Interregional Adviser in Governance and Public Administration. Her research interests include comparative and development administration and emergency management.


In major disasters, local communities are often on their own for several hours or days. Local governments can play a key role in taking the initiative to protect their citizens. This essay compares the experience of New Orleans before, during, and after the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina with the performance of Qinglong County, China, during the Tangshan earthquake of 1976. Qinglong County exemplifies local government taking initiative in risk assessment, decision making, operations, information sharing, and communications.