Failure to lead on COVID-19: what went wrong with the United States?

Spyros Schismenos (School of Social Sciences, Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative (HADRI), Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia) (UNESCO Chair on Conservation and Ecotourism of Riparian and Deltaic Ecosystems, International Hellenic University, Drama, Greece)
Antoine A. Smith (My Safety Approved, Los Angeles, California, USA) (UNESCO Chair on Conservation and Ecotourism of Riparian and Deltaic Ecosystems, International Hellenic University, Drama, Greece)
Garry J. Stevens (School of Social Sciences, Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative (HADRI), Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia)
Dimitrios Emmanouloudis (Department of Forestry and Natural Environment, International Hellenic University, Drama, Greece) (UNESCO Chair on Conservation and Ecotourism of Riparian and Deltaic Ecosystems, International Hellenic University, Drama, Greece)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 17 November 2020

Issue publication date: 4 February 2021




The purpose of this paper is to review the federal decisions to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response in the United States and consider the different approaches employed by the California state government.


This paper focuses on COVID-19-related issues, responses and implications in federal countries, and largely draws comparisons between the Trump Administration and California state.


The slow response of the federal government could have been avoided, had there been a current and tested national plan. The defunding of the Office of Pandemics and Emerging Threats, and the lack of coordination between the Trump Administration and the states have contributed to its ranking as the country with the highest COVID-19 infection and fatality rates worldwide. California state oversaw an effective initial pandemic response, which was ultimately undermined by a lack of national support and the refusal of some citizens to comply with the restrictions.

Research limitations/implications

The paper draws upon open-source information published on government websites and news media.


As the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is currently ongoing, information about the federal governance and state response is still evolving. The authors examine California as a state exemplar, since it is the largest such jurisdiction by populace and the first state to issue statewide mandatory lockdown measures. This comparison offers insights as to the decisive initiatives that could have occurred at the federal level. The “lessons learned” highlight the critical role of crisis leadership in societal and public health preparedness for future pandemic events.



Schismenos, S., Smith, A.A., Stevens, G.J. and Emmanouloudis, D. (2021), "Failure to lead on COVID-19: what went wrong with the United States?", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 39-53.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited


On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States (US), Donald J. Trump, declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic as a national emergency (Trump, 2020c). Through this declaration, the federal government activated a range of sweeping executive and financial powers intended to subdue this major threat to public health. Hospitals were told to deploy their emergency preparedness plans. Millions of Americans were advised to shelter at home. According to the Global Health Index, the US is currently ranked as the most prepared of any nation worldwide to handle biological threats (Table 1). What should have been a successful response to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, instead, has unfolded as one of the greatest public health crises in recent American history. As of October 11, 2020, the World Health Organization reported over 7.5 million confirmed cases and more than 210,000 COVID-19-related deaths in the US, the highest numbers of any country thus far, during the pandemic (WHO, 2020a). In contrast, other Western democracies with federal government systems, such as Canada, Australia and Germany have performed far better in managing the COVID-19 crisis (Bilinski and Emanuel, 2020). Table 1 presents the Global Health Index Rank, and COVID-19-related infections and fatalities of the aforementioned countries and the United Kingdom.

As shown in Table 1, the data bely an uncomfortable reality; despite leading in this Global Health capability ranking, the US was ill-prepared for a global pandemic. This paper examines the federal response of the Trump Administration including key miscalculations prior to the pandemic and in the early, critical stages of the response. We then compare the federal government response with that of a key state jurisdiction, California. Likened to a “nation state” (Wilkinson, 2020), it is the world's fifth largest economy, surpassing Canada and India (Corcoran, 2018) and has challenged recent federal administrations on issues such as social welfare and environmental protection (Cowan, 2019). Its Governor, Gavin Newsom was highly praised for his early response in managing the pandemic at the state level (Singh, 2020). These initiatives can inform future federal response plans but, ironically, were ultimately vulnerable to a lack of central government support, particularly in the form of harmonized risk communication to the general public.

The national pandemic plan

In 2014, former President Barack H. Obama gave a speech at the National Institutes of Health highlighting the need for pandemic preparedness (The White House, 2014a). During his presidency, Obama combated not one, but three looming health crises. The first was the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic which arrived in the US in 2009 and lasted until 2010. Next to arrive was the Ebola virus which broke out in West Africa in 2014 and lasted until 2016, and followed in quick succession by the Zika virus (2015–2016). In his speech, President Obama explained that “America was lucky” with H1N1, but less so with Ebola. Although Ebola does not have airborne transmission, being spread through direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids (e.g. urine, blood, sweat, etc.), it was a grave concern because of its high fatality rate of up to 50%. The outbreak in 2014 devastated the populace of Nigeria killing about 40% of those who were infected (WHO, 2020b). It caught American authorities off guard, with initial cases in Dallas, Texas, killing one man and infecting two nurses (Botelho and Wilson, 2014). However, as President Obama made the Ebola outbreak a national security priority, a successful containment strategy significantly reduced the threat to American citizens (The White House, 2014b).

While Ebola did not become a pandemic, the Obama Administration wanted to make sure the country was prepared for future public health threats. His administration set up a permanent pandemic preparedness team, known as PET within the National Security Council. The PET ran preparedness drills and created a pandemic “playbook”. It was intended that future administrations could benefit from these program “lessons learned” and apply them to future biological health threats and possible pandemics (Diamond, 2020; HHS, 2019). In a more recent interview, which took place on July 23, 2020, Obama explained that PET was intended to function as a global early-warning system, promoting international cooperation (Herndon, 2020). Unfortunately, PET never got the chance to prepare Americans for the coming COVID-19 threat, because it was later defunded by Obama's successor, President Trump (Rozell and Wilcox, 2020; Tenpas, 2020). When Trump stated on March 19, 2020, that “nobody knew there'd be a pandemic or an epidemic of this proportion”, critics and those who understood the previous level of US preparedness could only have felt dismay (Blake, 2020).

While the media criticized Trump for defunding PET in May 2018 (Riechmann, 2020), this decision is not unique, but part of a pattern across several federal administrations. The first official office for biodefense was established through the Clinton Administration, only to be defunded by the Bush Administration. It was re-established by President Bush in response to threats of biological terrorism, and then defunded through the Obama Administration, only to be set up again (as PET) and then be defunded by the Trump Administration (Wilensky, 2020). The continuous defunding of this office indicates that biological threats are, at best, an intermittent focus and priority for the federal government. This is highly problematic and may reflect a level of complacency about this issue, or perhaps more worryingly, expectations of a latent capacity to manage emergent biological threats, simply within existing health resources and capability. There is always a case to direct federal finances toward more pressing needs, but the defunding of the PET was a serious error of judgment, one that impeded preparation for COVID-19 and contributed to a slow and insufficient federal response.

Role of federal governance in public health

The governance of the US operates through the system of federalism, in which, powers are shared between the national (federal) government and state governments. The emergence of COVID-19 has revealed flaws within the governance of public health and response within the country. Public health is not controlled by the national government, but instead, through the authority of the states and local governments (Institute of medicine/Committee on assuring the health of the public in the 21st Century, 2003). By definition, pandemics are not a public health threat affecting individual states, but a hazard to the economic infrastructure and prosperity of the entire country. As such, they must be managed as a national threat.

Perhaps fearing blame for the disjointed national COVID-19 response, the Trump Administration has repeatedly underscored that it serves only as a backup to state and local governments. While technically correct under federal emergency management arrangements (FEMA, 1979) and the state separation of powers, [1] it is also notably different from the more integrated response plans of other federated countries. For instance, Canada's Public Health Response Plan for Biological Events is developed for all federal, provincial and territorial sectors. Germany's plan for epidemiological surveillance and disease control allows the collaboration between different stakeholders, including federal and Länder authorities, national and scientific bodies, European organizations, etc. (HSRM, 2020). The administration's response is also at odds with recent the American history. Besides Obama, a succession of Presidents understood both the need, and political opportunity, to serve as an active crisis leader and forge their credentials during national emergencies (Benton, 2020; Kapucu, 2009).

Crisis leadership relates to the practice whereby state leaders prepare their institutions and citizenry to address and overcome crisis events and their aftermath (Firestone, 2020; Mitroff, 2004). Questions abound as to why the Trump Administration did not seize this opportunity to garner political capital, in an election year, by overseeing a coherent national response. The lack of specific plans notwithstanding, the administration had both early warning and detailed assessments from domestic and international public health institutions (Editors, 2020). Rather than a simple concern of blame for pandemic outcomes, or sheer incompetence, one recent theory posits that the response of the Trump Administration reflects a deliberate form of “executive underreach”, defined as “a national executive branch's willful failure to address a significant public problem that the executive is legally and functionally equipped (though not necessarily legally required) to address” (Pozen and Scheppele, 2020). The authors argue that this form of leadership failure is characteristic of executive governments with illiberal and antidemocratic tendencies, which seek to undermine institutions with the potential to actively hold them to account. In this sense, the Trump Administration's downplaying and denial of health risks and related science and sidelining of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was “on message” and, perversely, maintained control of the narrative established with its core constituents while simultaneously slating blame for economic shutdowns and health outcomes to state administrations. Similar cases of executive underreach have been employed by conservative governments in the United Kingdom and Brazil, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro resisted social distancing measures and committing to lockdowns. This leadership approach has seen these three countries experience among the highest infection rates in the world, notably including infection of the three leaders themselves (Bennett, 2020; Soto and Peltier, 2020).

A failure of crisis leadership

According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, disasters can be defined as serious disruptions of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources (UNDRR, 2020). Events such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires have the potential to inflict widespread destruction, mass casualties and a lack of critical supplies. In these key aspects, a pandemic is no different and requires a similar cycle of disaster preparedness. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, optimal management comes in four phases: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery (Roberts, 2006). The federal government enacted initial response efforts after China proceeded with its lockdown procedures of Wuhan, and after the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a public health emergency. The following day, a travel ban was put into effect for people traveling from China on January 31, 2020 (Corkery and Karni, 2020).

As infections rose in Europe, another travel ban was put into effect on March 11, 2020 to restrict European travelers from entering the US (The New York Times, 2020). By March 26, 2020, a few weeks after President Trump declared a national emergency, America had recorded the highest number of infections worldwide with at least 81,000 confirmed cases (McNeil, 2020). By this time, state healthcare systems were already under great strain; a situation worsened by the federal government's profound shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and testing kits (Miroff, 2020). At the start of the pandemic, the Strategic National Stockpile held an inventory of 12 million N95 masks. Federal officials assessed that effective healthcare operations from that time would actually require 3.5 billion N95 masks (Khazan, 2020). This occurred despite previous criticism that the Obama Administration had not acted to replenish supplies of medical masks after the 2009 swine flu epidemic (Erickson, 2020). To ramp up production, the Trump Administration initiated the Defense Production Act twice, on March 27th, and April 3rd (Trump, 2020a, b). This response came too late. By April 1st, the stockpile of N95 respirator masks were nearly depleted. Healthcare workers were told to use masks multiple times, in clear contradiction of Food and Drug Administration guidelines – each mask is to be used once to prevent cross contamination (FDA, 2020; Stevens et al., 2020). This failure to meet basic infection control procedures contributed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 9,000 healthcare workers had tested positive to the virus, by April 9, 2020 (CDC, 2020a). As alarm spread throughout the country, people tried to understand how America could be so ill-prepared for such an outbreak (Bergen, 2020).

During this time, President Trump touted that his travel ban policy saved thousands of lives (Stokols et al., 2020). However, Dr Anthony Fauci, the Administration's expert on pandemics, explained that earlier mitigation efforts could have saved even more lives (BBC, 2020b). This raised doubts about how the federal government had used this critical early phase of the pandemic. The period from the travel ban on China to the declaration of the national emergency spanned 42 days. The Trump Administration had six weeks to prepare for the coming pandemic. Early, assertive action was needed, but President Trump vacillated on key messages and largely acted in denial. He explained many times that he had the situation under control and that the virus would “go away”. Despite the many briefings from experts, it is reported that he refused to listen to them (Lipton et al., 2020). Even more jarring, Trump created a COVID-19 task force and appointed his Vice President, Mike Pence, to lead it; a person who is not a health expert (Gabbatt, 2020). President Trump received more criticism after his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was appointed to secure PPE (Chiu, 2020).

The reasons as to why the Trump Administration disavowed decisive federal action remain perplexing to many. Structural limits and state-vested powers are a clear factor, but these could also be leveraged against “buying in” to the consequences of the pandemic. During these 42 days, the administration had a belated opportunity to craft a national strategy based upon what other federal countries were doing – e.g. Australia, Germany and Canada (Rozell and Wilcox, 2020), or even reviewing Obama's “playbook” for handling pandemics; specifically tailored to the US context. Only when a team of epidemiologists from Imperial College London presented to his task force a terrifying projection of 2.2 million Americans dying if his Administration did nothing, did sentiments appear to shift (Pilkington, 2020). Days later, the president officially declared that the US was in a state of emergency. However, as infections grew and the stockpile of PPE were depleted, the abject lack of federal leadership was palpable. The way forward would now be in the hands of the nation's 50 governors, and nearly 20,000 mayors who oversaw their cities (PBS, 2020; Purdum, 2020b).

The case of California

Unlike President Trump, California's Governor, Gavin Newsom understood the vital need for effective public risk communication that is informed by science and rooted in reality (Almasy et al., 2020). Before President Trump formally recognized COVID-19 as a national threat, Newsom had already dealt decisively with the early impacts and needs created by the pandemic. After the Trump Administration placed a ban on China, California took up the duty of accepting Americans flying back to the US and quarantining them, something a number of states had been unwilling to do (Purdum, 2020a). California also accepted the 3,700 passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship that became a floating coronavirus hotspot (CDC, 2020b).

On March 18, 2020, Governor Newsom sent a letter to the Trump Administration explaining California's worst-case scenario; that more than 56% of California's 40 million residents could be infected with the coronavirus, if no measures were taken. Newsom also requested for the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship to be docked within the port of Los Angeles [2]. Within that same time day, the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, issued a stay-at-home order. This made Los Angeles one of the earliest cities in the country to undergo mitigation measures (Purdum, 2020b). The next day, Newsom followed in turn, issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order (CA, 2020b). This also made it the first state to issue lockdowns. This decision was fraught, particularly given the impacts within the state's economy. However, Newsom's main concern was to prevent the state's hospital system from being overwhelmed and this message helped garner early public acceptance of the plan (Czeisler et al., 2020). He also secured billions of dollars in pandemic funds (Sanchez et al., 2020), including a $US150m scheme to accommodate the homeless in hotels and reduce infection rates in this population (CA, 2020c). He also provided financial relief for small businesses and workers affected by COVID-19, and placed a moratorium on evictions (CA, 2020d). Other innovative programs included contracting BYD, a Chinese electric car company, to manufacture 200 million N95 masks per month (Myers, 2020) and directing other funds toward refurbishing old ventilators, as well as producing new ones (Sanchez et al., 2020).

Through the stay-at-home orders, individuals were asked not to leave their homes except for essential needs. The statewide mandate closed nonessential businesses like bars, nightclubs, restaurants, while allowing essential businesses like groceries, banks, law enforcement agencies to stay open. Mayor Eric Garcetti initiated more aggressive measures, closing parks, hiking trails and beaches in Los Angeles to discourage outside interactions. He also issued a mandate for face covering and gave businesses the ability to refuse service to customers who chose not to wear a mask (Sanchez et al., 2020).

While some community members considered these measures as reactionary, Newsom defended their importance through his daily COVID-19 briefings (Editorial Board, 2020). Through these briefings, people understood the need for social distancing, that flattening the curve (and maintaining hospital capacity) was their most important goal, and that everyone had to do their part (Czeisler et al., 2020). California's Governor also gained support from big tech companies like Google and Apple, which educated their employees about the virus and encouraged them to work from home (Sanchez et al., 2020).

By April 21, 2020, Newsom's effective governance, and coordination with the mayors and local officials paid off. Although New York and California reported the same number of infections in the first week of March, this changed markedly. As of April 20, 2020, California had 31,675 cases, and 1,178 deaths compared to New York (247,512 cases and 14,347 deaths) (Purdum, 2020a; Sandler, 2020). The swift actions Newsom took to close businesses and issue stay-at-home orders had largely suppressed the spread of the virus leaving many hospitals with low occupancy and prepared for an inflow of infected patients (Rainey and Karlamangla, 2020). With these outcomes, California was able to assist other battered states like New York with 500 ventilators (CA, 2020a). Other benefits of the stay-at-home orders were a significant reduction in crime (Mohler et al., 2020), car accident victims and a drop in cases of influenza infections (Rainey and Karlamangla, 2020).

Unlike the federal government, Newsom's government did not squander the critical early “window” to respond to the pandemic and showed skills of crisis leadership. His swift approach potentially prevented millions of people in his state from becoming infected. Despite this early success, things have recently taken a turn for the worse. In early August, California became one of the largest COVID-19 hotspots in the US, reporting more confirmed infection cases than New York, and with a death toll of over 10,000 people (Greene et al., 2020). As of October 15, 2020, California accounted for 11% of the total infections within America (Los Angeles Times Staff, 2020). Although Governor Newsom was praised for his aggressive early response, his strategy to flatten the COVID-19 curve has fallen away. What were the major factors that led to this failure?

Public “push back”

While social distancing, mandated mask wearing and stay-at-home orders were clearly effective, many Americans all over the states, including California saw the restrictions as “over-reach” into basic civil liberties; the right to (distanced) assembly, travel and visiting loved ones. The pandemic forced state governments to enact less “democratic” ordinances as a means of protecting public health (Friedersdorf, 2020). “Push back” ensued with groups of people across the country expressing distrust and fear that the government was trying to take over their lives. Remarkably, active noncompliance with health measures was fueled, in part, by the president. The Trump Administration started working to undermine the efforts of the states that were trying to solve the crisis.

By May 1st, President Trump was actively seeking to re-open the economy, even though the available data indicated more infections and deaths would occur (Lee, 2020; Martin, 2020; Rucker et al., 2020). In mid-April, Presidential tweets implored people to “liberate” their states (Zeleny and Collins, 2020). Antiquarantine protests were ignited, with reports that protestors were even blocking medical staff members from going to work (Williams, 2020). Trump applauded restaurants which ignored restrictions and re-opened (Rozell and Wilcox, 2020). Even wearing masks has been politicized, as Trump has argued that it is not a requirement, leading many of his supporters across the country to act in kind. (BBC, 2020a). A number of antimask protests occurred across the country (Beer, 2020). In August, the annual motorbike event in Sturgis, South Dakota attracted an estimated 250,000 people, many of whom were antimask supporters (Walker, 2020). In the case of California, businesses choosing to not enforce precautionary measures on low wage workers, and younger cohorts attending social and mass gathering celebration events, appear to be key groups contributing to the surge of COVID-19 cases (Greene et al., 2020).


The US response to COVID-19 has been concerning. Having inherited comprehensive plans and a federal oversight body to manage such events, the Trump Administration opted for a secondary role, leaving the response to the states, and even diminishing the threat of the virus and fighting against the strict measures some states had established. The defunding of the PET, while critical, reflects a longer-term complacency and lack of focus through successive administrations regarding pandemic threat. It's recent effects were evident; rapid decision-making outside a coordinated plan, a hastily established national taskforce with key positions not held by technical experts, and an early response “window” many public health officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci, believe failed to capitalize on opportunities to contain the spread.

A role model of crisis leadership can be seen in the response of California's Governor, Gavin Newsom. Newsom was one of the first state governors to take drastic measures to minimize infection rates, even though great concerns were expressed regarding major economic losses. The Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti followed Newsom's plans and enforced strict measures. This state, which is the main entry point for many travelers from China, presented a blueprint for early success and managed to keep the impacts low for several weeks. President Trump was conspicuously absent in terms of public and material support for these initiatives. Ultimately, California's COVID-19 numbers increased, particularly after attacks on Newsom and other Democratic Governors (Baker, 2020). These were instrumental in fueling public skepticism and undermining community solidarity regarding health messages and behaviors.

Why were other federated countries able to perform much more effectively to the pandemic than the United States? Was it solely President Trump's decision-making or has this crisis revealed a structural and institutional response framework that is not “fit for purpose” in the face of a national biological threat; a framework that could see any US Administration fail to contain a future pandemic? This is a pressing question. The US currently does not have a designated agency with a primary focus and national oversight regarding pandemic response – and it needs one. Canada has a detailed multigovernance plan for pandemic response. Similarly, the German framework supports collaboration across multiple expert bodies and state and Federal jurisdictions. Pandemics remain an ever-present risk, with the potential for increasingly virulent and rapidly spreading strains. Pathogens like COVID-19 present with both high rates of asymptomatic spread and relatively high mortality. This highlights the critical need for both effective social distancing strategies and real-time surveillance and containment across federal and state jurisdictions (i.e. test, trace and isolate protocols), working to risk communication and response plans that are pre-agreed and tested (Anderson et al., 2020).

Presently, the United States does not have a sufficiently integrated surveillance capacity of the kind needed to mitigate a pandemic (Stephenson, 2020). Integrated surveillance is the aggregate of several public health systems to facilitate the perpetual collection of information regarding disease spread and rapid countermeasures to isolate and eradicate possible outbreaks (Nsubuga et al., 2006). In relation to COVID-19, an effective system would mitigate new outbreaks within localized areas, while permitting a wider easing of restrictions. An example can be found in New South Wales, Australia, which minimized COVID-19 infection cases through regional lockdowns, real-time syndromic surveillance and active case detection, and case-based reporting (NSWG, 2020). In contrast, the response in the US has highlighted limits in such health response infrastructure, including insufficient capacity for rapid viral detection, case-based management to respond to outbreaks and a lack of support from the federal administration to establish such mechanisms (McClellan et al., 2020).

Limitations and future work

The paper uses open-source information published on government websites and news media that may be outdated (e.g. number of COVID-related infections and fatalities). This may affect the comparative aspects of the study (e.g. California being well prepared). As the pandemic is currently ongoing and input data are changing, the paper can be updated when more reliable information is available. Future work could investigate the response plan of other states in the US, and similarities and differences with the Trump Administration. It could also expand to other federal countries and investigate their state responses (e.g. New South Wales and Victoria in Australia).


The United States was not the most prepared for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Its federal leadership was insufficient, and occasioned major and largely avoidable health, social and economic impacts. This paper emphasizes three key decision points that were emblematic of the failure in the US: defunding PET, which left the country without a coherent national response strategy; a wasted early “window” of six weeks where rapid coordination informed by international experience was still possible; and poor communication and partnership between the federal government and states, requiring the latter act “on their own” without a national framework.

In a glimpse of what an effective national response could have looked like, Governor Gavin Newsom oversaw a state response in California that rightly acts as a practice exemplar. In a short time, he substantially reduced infection and fatality rates despite being the “entry point state” of international travelers, particularly from China. Unfortunately, these efforts were not sustained due, in part, to a lack of support from the federal government and public “push back”. The pandemic has exposed the urgent need for public health planning and infrastructure that can support integrated surveillance and rapid response, but these must be drawn within whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches if the worst impacts of future pandemics are to be avoided.

Global Health Index Rank, and COVID-19-related cases and fatalities of federal countries and the United Kingdom

CountryGlobal Health Index Rank*Cumulative infections^Fatalities^Cumulative infections per 1m population^
United States17,583,748212,22922,911
United Kingdom2590,84842,7608,704

Note(s): *Based on overall score (Cameron et al., 2019); ^Based on the Weekly Epidemiological Update, World Health Organization, 11/10/2020 (WHO, 2020a)



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Corresponding author

Spyros Schismenos is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:

About the authors

Spyros Schismenos is currently a PhD Fellow and Member of Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative (HADRI) at School of Social Sciences, Western Sydney University, Australia. Since 2016, he has been working closely with the UNESCO Chair on Conservation and Ecotourism of Riparian and Deltaic Ecosystems as the Focal Point for the Wider Region of Asia–Pacific. He is a Member of the Youth International Soil Governance Commission (YISGC) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. His research disciplines focus on Humanitarian Engineering, Disaster Management, Crisis Leadership, Biochemical Threats, Renewable Energy and Community Development.

Antoine A. Smith is a Cofounder of My Safety Approved. He studied Fine Arts with a focus on Filmography, Business Administration and Public Communications, and Emerging Technologies. Since 2018, he has voluntarily been offering services to the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, mainly in themes related to Disaster Management, Human and Animal Rights, and Climate Change. He is a Member of the Youth International Soil Governance Commission (YISGC) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. His research disciplines focus on Renewable Energy and “Green” Technologies, Governance Response, Humanitarian Engineering, Biodiversity and the Environment.

Garry J. Stevens is a Senior Lecturer in the Humanitarian and Development Studies Program at Western Sydney University. As part of the Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative (HADRI), he is involved in projects examining population preparedness for disasters and critical incidents, including occupational risk and resilience factors among emergency service workers, Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and humanitarian aid workers and trainees. His recent work with aid practitioners focuses on worker self-care and well-being in the context of work-related stress. He is also involved in population mental health and epidemiology, including technology assisted mental healthcare in hospital and community settings.

Dimitrios Emmanouloudis is a Professor at Department of Forestry and Natural Environment at International Hellenic University in Greece. He is the director of the Laboratory of Mountainous Water Management and Control and of Laboratory of Geology and Petrography. He was the coordinator of 12 international projects financed from international organizations like E.U., UNESCO, Hellenic Aid, etc. He has more than 60 publications, in various international journals with SCI, congresses and conferences. In 2016, he was appointed by UNESCO as Chair Holder of UNESCO Chair CON-E-ECT, which is dealing with “Conservation and Ecotourism of Riparian and Deltaic Systems”.

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