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Exploring the dynamics


standardization, unit diversity, and fragmentation. Localism

means that the federal government relies heavily on

municipalities as the main responders when disasters occur.

Lack of standardization refers to the variation in how EM is

organized and undertaken between different places. Unit

diversity denotes the differences in the sizes and types of entities

responding to disasters. Fragmentation describes two situations:

1) the federal, state, and local governments’ approaches to EM

divergence causing the overall EM effort to face vertical strains;

and 2) separate entities viewing EM only from their own

perspectives, leading to horizontal conflicts across departments

and between neighboring jurisdictions.

The aforementioned characteristics of the U.S. EM system,

as well as the reasons described below, provide a strong

rationale for why collaboration in local EM is extremely

important: 1) local governments are the frontline units dealing

with emergencies. However, they currently have limited

resources; 2) the independence and diversity of local

governments are aspects respected by the federal system; and 3)

emergencies do not always occur within one jurisdiction. In the

U.S., EM traditionally follows a “bottom-up” system, in which

local EM organizations and governments address disasters and

emergencies first and seek help from their state government or

from adjacent local governments later. Help from the federal

government is perceived as a “last resort” and is sought only

when a state cannot respond to and recover from a disaster or

emergency using its own resources (Sylves, 2008). Federal

agencies own and provide substantial resources for EM and

national security. States often help to implement federal policies,

train communities in best practices, and funnel federal grants to

local units (McEntire & Dawson, 2007). Thus, as the frontline

units in dealing with emergencies, local governments rely

heavily on collaboration between different organizations to