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.