Assessing and Managing Environmental Risk: Connecting Local Government Management with Emergency Management


Scott Somers is a city council member in Mesa, Arizona. He is a veteran of the Phoenix Fire Department and serves on the Arizona Homeland Security Coordinating Council. He recently received his PhD in public administration from Arizona State University.

James H. Svara is a professor and director of the Center for Urban Innovation in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. He is the editor of The Facilitative Leader in City Hall: Reexamining the Scope and Contributions, published in the ASPA Book Series by CRC Press.


Ensuring that a community is prepared to deal with a disaster is among the many tasks public managers are charged with addressing. Disaster preparedness and response requires adherence to standard planning practices, yet disasters are typically unpredictable. Dealing with disasters, therefore, requires a blend of traditional management skills and improvisation. Furthermore, like other aspects of administrative leadership, the top administrator must blend initiation and responsiveness in interactions with elected officials and a careful delineation of responsibility in handling actual emergencies. This article discusses how local administrators assess risk and balance preparedness needs within a universe of daily operational needs. Managing environmental risk is also explored from a political and legal context.