Combining Management Principles with Disaster Management Aspects

9 May

Stop wasting time by creating mountains of elaborate planning, do it right, or just don’t do it at all.

Far too many disaster management plans are drawn up daily just for the sake of having one, because it is somehow “required”. Even more are drawn up costing thousands and are never implemented. The reason for this is they could not interface, or connect with structures and systems existing. 

What is a Disaster Management Plan?

First off, what is a disaster? Here is a short definition; A disaster is classified as being either natural or man-made. That has impact on a developed population’s infrastructure, housing, farms, or livelihood that destroys most of it, and caused extensive loss of human life, or drastically changes the landscape, environment, or economy of a region…

Now we can ask, what is a disaster management plan then? In simple terms; a disaster management plan encompasses more than just disaster readiness and planning aspects, it is very specific. Both in terms of being;
·         Industry specific,
·         Event specific,
·         Country specific and even
·         Language specific
·         Format specific…
It has characteristics of the environment it dictates to.  It connects via an identified or perceived threat or risk that it will, could or should address, if it transpires, alternatively, its preventative and mitigating.

Whenever contemplating preparing for “disasters”; in any form, be it small or large, then the way to deal with planning is to look at the composition of emergency and disaster management entities, and services existing in your area, and having a look at their planning first. Then only decide whether your contemplated plan will fit, or even add value. Any plan needs to fit in with both any local government, provincial, and even national governments plans, as well as their organs/ departments of state, in order to add value, or to even matter, and moreover make sense – it needs to close a gap, not open one. Other NGO’s  and industry stakeholders, and watch dogs are also custodians, like the Civil Aviation Authority etc…

What are these plans for?
Plans, and how they are referred to could typically include amongst other things the day to day aspects of emergency and security management;
1.    Emergency planning; or otherwise also referred to as crisis management planning, it tends to take on the role of more daily occurrences; where it deals with the day to day management of different categories of emergency, anything from; fire, accidents, bees, storm water, burst pipes, trees falling over, etc.
2.    Contingency plans; a contingency plan is the backup plan to prevent, and or mitigate disasters from happening; they aim to lessen, or to totally prevent potential disaster from happening. Contingency planning deals with the more day to day stuff, and then having a plan B, should plan A fail, type of scenario. This is the spare, the backup, the additional mobilisation plan.
3.    Then the Disaster Management plan; this is normally the combined plan, that deals with all types of disasters, from the moment an event gets registered or classified as a disaster. Not every major event will be dealt with or classified as a disaster. That will require disaster response. Only once classified, then only does this plan kick in. Its main aim and purpose, is to use as much resources, and specialist, as well as co-ordination as possible, to normalise the situation effectively. Either by attempting to create better organised and co-ordinated reaction and response teams to the site, or to get them to assist off site, with very specific tasking’s, and initiatives. Then we are operating in the realm of disaster management – it aims to create co-ordination, communication, and give direction, to multilateral actions taking place in one area, at any given time. Disaster management deals with many aspects then, however, only at the co-ordination level. It will, or could also include other types of supportive planning to assist with its core functions. Like a Safety and Security plan for instance; that speaks too aspects all divers, from a; Bio Hazard plan, Hazmed, Hazchem Plan, even a Traffic Diversion Management Plan, right up to and involving the Army and their resources in rapid deployment.
4.    Then we will also find a Safety and Security plan, mission specific; that is normally only drawn up once a disaster area has been proclaimed; as safety and security aspects are terrain, and population specific.  Where these disaster areas and their support people start working in them is identified to be under threat, and so too their safety and security needs are re-evaluated, and new requirements will be forth coming. Traditionally you will require different types, and forms of protection; be it anything from, protective clothing, drilling, mining, and breathing apparatus, grappling gear, inoculations, a private fresh water supply, and air scrubbers, refrigeration, body bags, heat, lights, power, communications, armed forces, right up to security personnel, armoured vehicles, and even police and military deployments, are not uncommon.
5.    Therefor it becomes strategic, at the point where it becomes complex, as it starts unfolding, more and more aspects then need addressing, the scope becomes enormous, and dealing with all the issues, in order of importance, and in time frames, with pre-event scenario planning helps. It just informs us about what becomes an option we have and don’t have, in the now, medium term, and then afterwards, even with the long term directives.
6.    Disaster management planning is based on scenarios, and probability estimations, and eventuality planning. It only serves as a kick start platform with some directive and resources, so that initial basic and advance professional services can be alerted and could intervene immediately.
When we are contemplating planning of this nature, we need to keep this in mind, and then we need to be in this right paradigm.

Only then do we start by asking ourselves just where do we slot in, and which aspects do we consider our “turf”. We need to clarify and quantify, so that we may identify exactly what we want and need done. Again, we need to know, and realize that disaster management plans, are not the here all and end all of disaster mitigation and management. We may want everything, but we could only need something. The ideal vs. the effective is the way to go. What are my choices then; especially pertaining to management options; both in terms of technology available and type of management platforms and templates that appeal to us, or designed specifically for us, and what type of business philosophy will we utilise here, what will serve us best? Good research, best practices, and history, could bring forth a wealth of info. How much experience does one need, where do you find all the additional info and experts?

Do we go with strategic planning or project planning styles?

Furthermore, to what extent are we going to go with our planning, just how far is far and “grand” enough, and how much detail and resources is enough?  There is always a balance that need to be apparent, a place between going some way with a project, and then having the ability and good common sense to go all the way, without overdoing it either.

I have seen volumes of disaster management plans compiled in my lifetime, and then bound into books, that in the end just served as decorative books, in a big glass display cabinet, filling a whole wall in the operations room, one “whole wall” yes; no one has ever been able to read all of it. Of that I am very sure, let alone any of it lately. It just seems so intimidating to read, such a waste of time and money, and way too much effort. If what we need is something small instead, and SOP. See link for SOP

An SOP; A Standard Operating Procedure booklet for planning and managing the disaster management aspects; remember every situation needs both different and common things, before it can be stabilized.  A traditional SOP is something small and compact, to the point instructions that will kick start the process, until the professionals arrive, giving us options, that’s all that is required.

Then we have identified what we truly need, our need is for short and to the point instruction sets when we speak of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP); therefore; make up your mind first on these aspects of styling, and designing the format of your contemplated disaster management plans outputs, or deliverables.

Remember this; SOP’s need to be general; you don’t want to be changing them all the time, rather add addendums, as things change fast, and it’s going to keep changing even faster still, if we don’t get the situation assessed, and under control fast, then we have not done much.

Other aspects that change in tandem, is our legislation, and industry standards, then the whole plan and SOP might have to change, it has and will happen again, so be mindful of the impact on your plans and SOP’s. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel.  Just to be seen to keep up. Do you have the time to re-do a plan of great magnitude; say every three months or so for instance and then still have to realign all your SOPs accordingly?

What else needs incorporating into our disaster management plan to make it perfect?

What is the specification for our disaster management plan, who will use it and how? We need a user and protocol specification, standard, how do these people traditionally go about solving problems, and doing things. Whatever we bring, must fit. This should be the approach. Do we also need some form of safety and security criteria built in, for the responders, so that they can pre-empt their own safety, as well as emergency and contingency planning for smaller events, all in one mix? Or will we stick with the apples with apples concept.

Questions, questions, questions, way too many models, and templates exist today, spelling out their own step-by-step process; nevertheless, they are all silent on what informed preempting facts and factors, how much was considered when they were devising such a template, at what level of expertise was it done, what informed them to use this technique, and how well has it served them thus far. Beware, templates are nice, but not always the best option.

Remember, any document can be really well written, even eye-candy, that’s not to say it’s the tried and tested variety, its real acid test, its real purpose is to inform, and co-ordinate activities around disaster management well, thereby translating into immediate corrective action. If not, then it’s just not an essential document operationally.

Disaster management plans, are plans executed on the ground, in the heat of battle. They won’t, or might not have one quarter of the things you perceive to be basics in the boardroom now, where you are sitting with the air-conditioning on having tea and biscuits, whist hammering out the details, and drawing up the design. You need to do this “barefoot”. We need to plan with worst case scenarios in mind, not just with what to expect, but with if we have lost most of our own logistics etc – what then?  

Then we have to address specific resources that are event specific and required, and specialized people, to solve very specific problems for us, always keep the focus on efficient and both effective operational execution. People tend to want to just throw tons of resources at disasters, it just doesn’t work, to many practical implication, space, transport, timing, distance, all the elements of your plan could change, change will be the only constant.  

With all this as backdrop

Then it would seem that our best point of departure would be to gauge the real importance of our plans, and that would be to save lives, and then only the prevention of damage, and then the scale of the endeavour will dictate your resulting direction and planning for you. In other words, the plans require stages of rollout and development.

If it is an AD_HOC event, say for instance a music concert at a stadium. Then you will have to cover every angle possible, within the scope of events management. Thus, your planning will/ should start with incorporating anything from legislative right down to customer specification.

This is pretty “easy”, it’s a contained and very specific environment, which we have almost total control over, we can quantify how many vehicles, and people, and plan more specific and with detail around specifics.

Take note; every plan should address a specific aspect, of a specific nature, in a specific place. As the SPECIFIECS OF EACH PLAN CHANGES> so will the requirement. The rules are, if the situation changes then so will everything else, and with every specific operational plan, come limitations. If it is the safety of a town for instance, then all these aspects change. By example; take a town threatened by a very old dam wall and some frequent heavy flooding, then the structures involved in the day to day managing of a town become enormous, anything from the local Police, Fire department, Hospitals, Town Council, Red Cross, etc. Not to mention the community structures. They have all developed their own, systems, policy and procedures, not to mention perceptions on how to best address this “danger”. Some might be affected or could and others won’t care as they won’t be.

Dynamic situations call for structured intervention. if not then they need to develop their own protocols, policy and procedure, and then the main job of the EDMP would be more of a facilitation and co-ordination effort…

Any actions towards getting a EDMP (emergency and disaster management plan) together for them, that will co-ordinate this community, will be useless, if the powers that be, do not consider it of paramount importance. Now we can talk more on the mitigation side. The threat has been identified, so to the cause, and it could be mitigated; so who is going to get the job, and the responsibility to do it?

Different aspects require different types of things, and now the thinking behind the process needs to drive it, like you do a business, not much of disaster managing is really generic, in my opinion, its more specific and the devil is in the detail, getting these plans implemented.

Orientate your position in this regard, towards business practices. Start with what is your scope, and mandate first. What is it that they want from you, if you were tasked, or that you want if you are championing this task, and do you really need to solve a perceived problem/ threat, or is it already dealt with? Or is it someone else’s mandated and therefore their job and they are not doing it? The point is; we see a problem, or potential for a disaster and then instinctively want to fix it right away, when instead we need to asses it from all angles first. In some instances we are free to use our instincts, in other instance we are bound by policy, law, and mostly by jurisdiction even.

Okay now, let’s say we have the mandate, and the tasking, where to now;

Back to the aspect of size, structure and style; how will I sell this plan, this aspect now becomes significant only at the point where we have to disseminate and implement any of if, if not all, then initiatives contemplated in the totality of the plan needs to translate into action, only at this juncture do we see for the first time how bulk loads of info get lost in translation, if not deliver in a structured manner.

Its only now, here, that we realize that KISS; is best, Keep It Simple and Short – with one action, you could/ must cover many instances, ranging from; fire, bomb threat and power failures – by follow plan A, then for storms; snow, hale, and collapsed buildings we follow plan B…

Fewer options, no more than three per scenario makes for less confusion, and better focused interventions.

Where Government and legal compliance aspects also impacts and plays a role, then the rules change somewhat.

Therefore we need to determine the prerequisites and legal aspects first. Then the size and scale, and then only the requirements; user and otherwise.

Okay now we are all good to GO!

Start any EDMP by consulting with experienced people and veterans in the field if one is available, nothing beats experience, practical experience is the best source, the tried and tested variety is always king, or organisation, or government department that specialise in this aspect of disaster management.

During any planning process, make sure that they are represented, and especially where state organs are custodians, and forerunners of such endeavours, then they need to be consulted, and included at some point.

Therefore, what are the specifics of the environment I wish to plan for; here we refer to general terms, then specific and other requirements, that also need to be in place first, as a “general rule” backed up with accreditations, certification etc. Other requirements that you may want to consider; more industry specific, also needs serious consideration; for instance, with event management; they need structural engineer’s certificates, sound and stage certificates, before you can carry on with the event.

More aspects should be forthcoming from a RISK, and GAP analysis, that are of environmental concern. By highlighting the legal, general, and specific requirements, and industry standards, and getting their specifics, and what it entails beforehand, is always a good start to any plan. Any legal angle, or compliance aspects, made known, brings conformity that is, or could come into play, needs to be pegged. These are the underlying aspects…of mitigation – and compliance issues that assist in disaster mitigation and management.

Now there also other factors; look at the categories and then decide where you fit in.

Disaster attributes in category formation;( things that have and could again cause disasters, dealt with at or by;)

Classified as category one; impacting on National and Inter-National environment – dealt with by the state, and international entities.

·         Ecological: disasters that occurred, or potential, we deal with both; that impact globally, or continental, like the BP oil spill, Volcanic eruption in Ice Land, or events that starts small, crocodiles and fish dyeing in the Olifant river due to mining activity, pollution, poison and heavy minerals, radiation, effluent, fungus, Japans Nuclear Reactor overheating, over fishing, over utilisation of forests in South America, anything that has, and could affect global warming,ozone depletion, effects the global context at some point, where it will impact on fresh, water, air, soil, food, etc., etc.

·         Economical: Effects of Corruption, Cultural influence, political and religious beliefs and practices lead to degeneration of all pillars of economy; that have a knock-on effect, creating crime, food shortages, water shortages, power outages, support infrastructure deterioration, and failing rapidly, closing of hospitals, shortage of trained and equipped emergency services, ports standing still, roads, harbours, over population, unemployment, uncontrolled migration, refuges, xenophobia, political asylum seekers, refugee, etc.
·         Environmental: Climate changes, crop failures, disease, infections, bacteria, spreading…
·         Man-made structures and buildings; Dams flooding plains, erosion, tree felling, mines, quarries, farming, factories, maintenance and repair issues, waste management, defective material, workmanship, engineering, etc.
·         Freak, and reoccurring events of nature that causes havoc on society; Forest/Mountain/Velt – any fires, Tsunamis, Tornado’s, Cyclones, Hale storms, Thunder storms, Locust =plagues, Red-tide, Volcanic eruptions, Flooding, Drought, Plague, Disease, Virus, Malaria, Cholera, Bird Flue etc.
·         Then the obvious ones; Economic collapse due to Dictatorship, Terrorism, Genocide, Political unrest and finally War.
Category two; Regional and Local attributes and dissimilar elements.

All the more immediate and local factors; those specific to your living or working environment.

Here we will look at attribution; the things unique only to our area, and environment,  that has, will and could pose the most risk or danger that we all fear…especially in this “habitat”.

I.E Living in Alaska, and working on a deep oil extraction mining project in that region, would have different elements and attributes, when identifying mining risks, than what would be the case form say miners living in Australia, and working on/ in a coal mine there for instance.

Also dissimilar aspects; factors on the outside, could directly impact on the inside, things that we accept as a daily occurrence, and therefore take for granted like Political and labor unrest breaking out, and escalating to major proportions, impacting on, all aspects of life, where we could see long durations where no essential services can function, like garbage removal is suspended as long as the industrial action continues, then its knock on effect is a resulting health risk, rodent infestation, cholera, etc.

Category three; Specific Protocol.

This category deals with very specific attributes; it would include aspects from minute, some piece of machinery – power drill use inside a submarine, for instance, to humongous; Space Shuttle, or Aircraft, Oil-Rig, Nuclear-Reactor, Major Event, or Hydropower Dam for instance. Anything that has very specific protocols, checks, procedures and maintenance and repair schedules that need to be performed on a time scale, hourly, or daily, in specific sequence, all in order to avert any potential accident, or incident, that has the potential to escalate into a series of events eventually becoming a disaster.

Now we need to follow some basic rules and principles here.

First off, some aspects will/ could be dealt with/ should be at governmental level. At whose door does the responsibility reside, belong? These aspects may fall way outside your scope and mandate perhaps, but nevertheless, it could impact on short, medium, and even long-term plans and initiatives, if not given attention – with devastating effects. Especially if missed, overlooked, or given very little significance, and or consideration (i.e. dolomite riddled areas, are highly unstable, especially for building development), mine dams overflowing, sewage seeping into underground water etc.

Disaster impact study

We always need to look around and do thorough assessments; you can’t do this, but you could do that, if your aims are not clear, and clarified then you won’t know what your rights are and what you are getting yourself into. In some instance people in certain positions are compelled by law to have plans in place.

Think of  all things from the ground up, and that even means taking it literally from the ground up, by starting with the basics first; to see what’s in the ground, what’s under the ground, water, rock formation, clay, soil etc.

However, it is possible to reduce the impact of disasters by adopting suitable disaster mitigation strategies. Disaster mitigation mainly addresses the following:
  • The potential to minimize the likelihood of disasters from reoccurring by minimizing the identified risks; earthquake proof buildings, fire proof materials in forest areas. Then also to minimize death and injury, by developing disaster early warning strategies for tsunamis, earthquake warnings, fire warnings, snow warnings, hurricane… etc…
  • Building these capacities to become more and more resistant to the effects of natural disasters, has become focal as an approach to mitigation…
  • Better mobilization techniques and use of technology to gauge probability, frequency and impact with computer aided models…and other computer software, this application has served us well.
  • Structured and collaborative inter governmental, and agency agreements, for the rehabilitation and post-disaster recovery of disaster struck areas.
Disaster management, on the other hand involves:
  • The Planning, role and scenario gauging, assessments, study,  pre-disaster planning, preparedness, monitoring, and it also includes building relief management capability, and better equipped emergency response teams…
  • Developing and researching of prediction and early warning equipment
  • Imitative readiness; Looking at the use of military and commercial satellites, aircraft and other capabilities, to perform immediate damage assessment and relief management distribution with.
Disaster reduction or mitigation is seen as the greater systematic active working part of the total disaster management plan, and process.

As we seldom get disasters, and most, if not all the active time is spent here mitigating and testing assumptions, and tools. Only where the plan kicks into recovery mode after an actual disaster, does the process become more complex and labor intensive, as it unfolds in parts, as part of the total process. This becomes the most expensive part, of the whole process, and timely. Which normally has the most challenges, as it involves different role-players, in different regions, during different situations, with different professions and different scientific fields of study required at each disaster, and has become an important measure for success of these plans, the ability to deal with diversity, and change equally well? Then also having good 360 degree vision and metal perceptiveness of the operations area,  becomes key to success, and creating understanding of the plan, and then the co-ordination of it?

Disasters are almost always unique in one way or the other, no two unfold and leave the same scars, they are very situational. Anything aiding and abetting the likelihood of potential disasters, needs to be contemplated..

All things unseen; and booth seen, make for potential disasters, all that would impact negatively on what I am trying to mitigate, with planning and preparing against, should be considered as a threat to our plan. Disaster management planning therefore could be intense, and very detailed, or just specific, and also in general or informed by requirements in law, and clearly stipulated. It’s always situational.

Now on to “the other aspects”, things that don’t look out of the ordinary, or like a disaster looming, and then it is. Take the example of crocodiles dying in a game reserve; the culprit at first glans is dead fish, but the real culprit is fish eating sediment filled with toxins, from a new dam built upstream, where heavy metals settle in the soil, that come from effluent, from an old mine some 300 miles upstream, seemingly unconnected aspects can cause disasters – in this case ecological.

Research then too becomes significant as a tool, where we need specifics, and accurate data to gauge the real case and cause of an event, that cause concerns. The lesson is everything is connected somewhere, somehow, to everything else, finding these connections, becomes paramount to successful mitigation, and planning of any good plan. Plans are mostly implemented, by drafting policy and procedure from it; this is where the cracks start appearing.

Review things that are “in place” like policy. Is our policy somehow responsible for the dying of fish? Because we allowed mine water to flow into streams, as government, or land owners, who’s responsible, is the first question? Then we don’t need a plan, we just need to make sure a policy is properly executed. And what are they doing, or what are they proposing to do about it? Or is it is it just the lack of conforming to some other policy, law, or regulation, by some other department, or contractor, that escalated the problem.

Then we also have mind numbing total absence of policy. Worst still, ineffective application of policy, and law-enforcement, of it, etc. Most of our problems, especially ecological, when faced with managing disasters, are all man made, therefore we can undo some of the damage if we are vigilant. Most of it could be traced backs to giant consortiums, and governments all over the world, who turn a blind eye, at what’s happening on their doorsteps, or what’s causing, or creating these events…until its way to late. Because they themselves are involved in one way or the other, they are to blame, or the main culprits…hiding behind public interest etc.

Ignorance and arrogance will never do as much damage as what corruption and stagnation will do…

There will always be policy be sure of that, that people will hide behind, but if it is ineffective, and un-implemented it is always a matter for concern.  It’s the obvious that we miss, because we trust too much, look at other cause of disaster, and then fix the cause and not the blame as they say.  How well and how effective does plans, policy, law, and regulation translates into action?

Things like Policy, Procedure, Law, and Security, need a good revue first, in an environment where we are already identifying potential disasters, then they must achieve their essence, that they were created for. In the disaster management prevention game; the biggest emphasis is on prevention, and preparedness, with aspects such as the mitigation plan – relying on policy, procedure, practice, and law mainly to avert disasters with.

In order to mean business, things need enforcing; either backed up by law, or by-laws, and policy, even deeper still we can ask for regulated procedure, law enforcement, certification, or nothing will be truly effective.

The second aspect is, it needs to belong to someone, someone, must take ownership, and most importantly be held accountable, for all or most of the deliverables of any such a plan.

Only then will things start happening, this is no failsafe either. If not, it’s always just a feel good, total waste of time, and money planning process.

Lastly, utilizing and educating people about their resources, closes the loop, if nothing else, it aides the disseminating of the plan. If one of these three elements is left out, nothing good or great will come from having spent tons of time planning.

Okay! If you have all this in the back of your mind, checked and squared away, then we may proceed deeper.

Contingency planning

Contingency planning becomes the most reliable failsafe we need in order to avert and prepare for disasters. More time and money needs to be spent here, as well as research…

Contingency planning, digs into what do we have scenarios, and then how can it be used, and who can do it for us, if, when, where, and how… Then our Emergency assistance plans and initiatives, ties in with this contingency, with listing of all our supporting infrastructure like; hospitals, clinics, water towers, suppliers of bottled water, batteries, etc.

It all requires some scientific overviews, and then last but not least, our Disaster management preparedness preparation with some on the run surveys, can we use this, break that, take , when the communication is down, and so is the power grid. Pre-empting certain, otherwise illegal acts, and getting MOU’s in place before hand…

Most pros in the business overlook this very fundamental step. We first need a draft, to see if we will comply legally, and cover all the aspects we have just dealt with, in a contract format.

The next few steps have to some extent become the norm, or rule and standard in the industry.

Real, Perceived and Possible risks…

Risk assessments;

Any emergency management initiative must start with an inventory of real, and perceived, as well as probable risks.

This is done by performing what’s referred to as an environmental scan; it consists of a “walk about”, and physically evaluating the environment for potential risks.

The GAP analysis;

Then the GAP analysis assessment, this give us a list of some perceived probabilities. Combined with what we know, and how capable we are of closing the gap between the event, and the successful finalisation.

Only if we get all the elements that could cause events, which could culminate into some form of a disaster, and be able to gauge its potential impact, as predicted, can we draw up escalation charts.

Escalation charts become handy where and when several other events happen, because of any disaster happening in the same area, for events of mass destruction and unknown continuation and probability. Then escalation charts become handy, they show us that if a gas pipe ruptures here, we could expect contamination here, or explosions, or, and, maybe… We can do this beforehand with professionals on board, in a role play scenario. The idea is to lessen the after math, and its impact. Impact refers to immediate, short term, medium and long term. How long will these effects last, before they will be dealt with effectively?

Then incidents need to be ranked in order of commonness, and intensity/ in order to gauge their long term potential impact. So that we may in an informed fashion, address incidents, before they cause more accidents, and become disasters within disasters. This will inform our inputs, pertaining to how to go about planning for each instance during a disaster, these are the steps;
  1. 1.     Mitigation
  2. 2.     Preparedness
  3. 3.     Response
  4. 4.     Recovery
Where;
  1. Mitigation is defined as “sustained action that reduces or eliminates long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects.”  Mitigation is the ongoing effort to lessen the impact disasters may have on people and property.  Mitigation involves such activities as avoiding construction in high-risk areas such as floodplains, engineering buildings to withstand wind and earthquakes, and more.
  2. Preparedness is simply preparing for an emergency before it occurs.  Obviously, it is important to not just plan, but to prepare as well.  The key to effective emergency management is being ready to provide a rapid emergency response.  Being ready includes training and exercises as well as logistics.  Government agencies at all levels have an obligation to prepare themselves and the public for emergencies.  Community groups, service providers, businesses, civic and volunteer groups, are all partners in this effort.  Everyone needs to be prepared.
  3. Response includes the action of responding to an emergency.  Trained and equipped personnel will be required to deal with any emergency situation.
  4. Recovery is the process of returning to normal.  Salvage, resumption of business processes, and repair are typical recovery tasks.

With this as background we need to start with assembling all the role-players, and getting their inputs on each attribute of the plan, (this is the pre- disaster planning) protocol meeting. Then we will have response, and recovery, with post disaster intervention… (Disaster funds, rehabilitation, etc.)

A good place to start is to meet, and get to know the key representative of your immediate environment; this should preferable include Police, Fire, Ambulance, Emergency and Disaster Management Agencies Leaders as the core security and disaster management committee cluster.

In some instances you will be pleasantly surprised to see that there are lots of things in place, and in other instances, nothing worth having.

This group could be extended to State, Provincial, Local Governments and None Governmental Organisations NGO; depending on your mandate and scope. You should then request an emergency disaster preparedness or reediness presentation. The aim and purpose is to clarify any assumptions; who leads when, where, and how, and who takes over, to get to know their capabilities and limitations. How these agencies co-ordinating before, during, and after disasters? How do they interact when their own lives and lines of communication is down and compromised during disasters?

The crux of this exercise is twofold, looking in, and inside out, to find the weak spots in the support services armour, so that you can plan for worst case scenarios, and then run of the mill aspects. Look at perfect activation and execution scenarios vs. dismal and slow executions. We need to unpack all relevant aspects to add value, before planning, get as much info as possible from your key stakeholders and key role-players as possible, to get a good feel, and picture of the landscape and everything in it, before doing any total assessment of the situation.

From here;  

We need to look at history; to inform us, any bits and piece of information, about what we have identified as possible risks. History should be the greatest informant, of what to expect. Then we move to what was done then, by whom, with what and how successful were they at it.

Some critical analysis of any available situational analysis, and data, will inform us, and hopefully point to the; prevention is better than cure situation, and this is how you do it, and it works from experience, and mitigation that followed, if any. This aspect, a chunk of well documented history will be very helpful if available, even more indispensable will be actual footage, and incident reports, eye witness statements and accounts, as well as people still around that were part and parcel of the operation at the time. To use this will vastly improve the “Risk” and “Gap” analysis.

THE GAP analysis; informs us of what was lacking in bridging the GAP between the disaster and the recover as well as the follow-on actions; that of response, recovery and mitigation.

The question should always be, “ARE WE NOW READY TO BE TESTED?”.

Only if you can answer YES!, then only are you confidant and vigilant enough in the preparedness, and mitigation, that has been put in place, if NO. Well…then you have still lots of “GAP’s” to close.

“GAP” also gets us to understand a lot more about the things that directly closes or widens the GAP for us; they are the things that inform us about the  GEOGRAPHY< its ATTRIBUTES< and local PERCEPTIONS, about doing things, and imminent threats. It is said that if you don’t believe something is possible, then you won’t believe in threats, possible dangers, or probability at all!

We need to address fears, as well as concerns, and most importantly, we have to address PERCEPTIONS FIRST AND FORMOST. Most plans don’t fail because they were given ill-conceived plans, no they fail because they never believed that such a danger existed, no, it’s because they were perceived to be unnecessary so they become emotionally overwhelmed at a critical stage… by their new reality and its devastation.

Disaster management plans need to be holistically similar in form, both in design and then its sociological implementation…

We have to pre-empt the act of responding to potential disasters as a course of business and routine, way before the process, can be kick started with success, by either having mock disasters and deploying, or by having paper exercises…… people need to know about imminent dangers and threats, and be schooled, informed, and trained, as well as exercised into the process.

The best examples of this application, is in the Airline industry, they pre-empt the fact of potential disasters, even before every take off, like no other industry. Running down, pre-flight tests, and then pre-take-off; life jacket location, oxygen mask, and safety-belt operation, emergency exits etc.  Therefore they are the safest industry in the world. The more you do it the better you get at doing it…

This is how we apply our analytical thinking, and plan the process, by sharing the responsibility; this is why some disaster management plans work, and others just gather dust. People like routine, and live by it. People in general deal better with the familiar, than what they do with things foreign and alien in concepts. We need to make disaster managing, and standard operating procedures seem more familiar then, second nature in some instance.

If mitigation is not in the daily routine, then you are working on luck only and a piece of document that serves little to no purpose. Emergency action drills need to be done, and regularly, in order for it to become entrenched, especially by the first responders, normally our emergency and disaster management specialists, the fire, ambulance, police and other relevant departments.

Just like with any periodical maintenance becoming essential, and then very crucial at some point, and no longer just routine, so too the same principles apply with disaster management and emergency readiness, and preparedness, it requires some test, checks, balances and exercises to be performed routinely or as scheduled, to gauge proficiency.

At the Administrative level;

At the Strategic administrative Level; we require action plans, tick lists, data, reports, systems, policy and procedures.

At the Tactical Level; we require inspection, calibration, testing, training, exercises and routine maintenance.

At the Project level; we need schedules, deadlines, budgets, and responsible people, to develop and maintain what we have, with a vision, of where we want to ultimately be in step with time, and change.

The whole aspect of disaster management needs a holistic view, and overview, as well as approach to be successful, it’s not always about the great plan, it’s about how everything else connects to everything here, and seamlessly that counts.  To be measured is to be effective, you cannot manage that which you cannot measure; this is so true of disaster management applications. The very reason is that disasters always most certainly happen is stages, right up to the point where it unfolds, into its own worst form. We do sometimes get some warning, and indication, or alarm, beforehand.

Only if we are vigilant and routine, in preform daily calibrating aspects, and have systems in place, then will we be sure to avert most disasters, or at least mitigate them, only with true vigilance, and action…can we succeed.

The daily management aspects                       VS.            The aspects we need in place daily.     

*Analytical and Critical Thinking:

*Traditional Strategic Planning
and Project Management


vs.

*Systems Thinking:

*Management System, training, budgets, protocol, policy, procedures.

1. Register a Project (beginning and end) deadlines.

vs.

1. Kick start Continuous and ongoing processes with Yearly Strategic Management meetings and Quarterly Cycle/review to stay on “track”
2. Inspections, checklists, feedback, monitoring…of all the process and initiatives, all items found must be documented. Nothing is done in good faith; we all check each other…all the time.

vs.

2. Everything must have deliverables, time frames, and budgets, as well as responsible people, agencies. All Outcomes based measures and action plans set/accountability tracked
3. Weekly/ monthly/ quarterly reports, inspections.

vs.

3. Annual Strategic Review (and Update) each year
4. Environmental scan, risk assessments, shortfalls, projections, targets and actual cost.

vs.

4. Future environmental scan/quarterly reviews, reports, continuously revamping…projected cost.
5. Analytical tools/scientific focus, measuring actual risk reduction

vs.

5. Focus on strategy, commitment, and wider buy-in, cost and risk reduction
6. Getting Stakeholders silo mentality lifted, through strategic and project intervention, with set goals, and vision alignment of all stakeholders, and cost and resources sharing.MOU – Signing a Memorandum of understanding, and adding proper identification, of leading agencies, in specific instances.

vs.

6. Shared best practices revue, consultation, mediation, as the glue to combined sustained implementation of  risk reduction, and mitigation initiativesProject integration to backup the MOU; with resources and specific tasking.

The project part comes in where we manage with milestones, schedules, budgets, perception management, education, and information sharing, co- ordination and advertising galore. All in a continued planned and structured manner.  We need to develop a solid awareness of the collective’s vision, mission, goals, and objectives. In order to consolidate it into one action, to become one act of purpose driven, intuitive, directed by principle…

Read up on Supervisors that can do the job, and what will be required from them

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