Crisis Management: Exercising Leadership in Extraordinary Times

By Howitt, Arnold M. | Nation's Cities Weekly, November 15, 2004 | Go to article overview

Crisis Management: Exercising Leadership in Extraordinary Times


Howitt, Arnold M., Nation's Cities Weekly


Crisis Management: Appearing without warning, crises have high stakes, require urgent action, and make novel demands on leaders and their organizations. Lives, reputations and agency fates hang in the balance. Sticking to established routines or predetermined responses might prove inadequate--or even counter-productive.

Even before the shattering events of September 11 and the anthrax attacks that shortly followed, some leaders at all levels of government recognized that the United States was not fully prepared to cope with large-scale, life-threatening crises

Of course, public safety and emergency medical personnel effectively deal daily with emergencies of many types and scales, and emergency managers and public health officials are ready for a wide range of contingencies But capacity is not as widely and thoroughly distributed as it should be, and the perils of the contemporary world warrant concern about the possibilities of far greater challenges than we have yet experienced.

Future crises might involve severe natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods or earthquakes Emergent infectious diseases such as SARS or a deadly new strain of influenza could imperil large numbers Major transportation crashes, industrial accidents or other technology failures may require novel reactions The threat of terrorism--as Oklahoma City, New York and Arlington County/ Washington, D.C., have already experienced--will long be with us.

Unprecedented challenges might come not only from the cause of the crisis, but also from its scale, time frame and the degree of inter-organizational cooperation necessary to respond. An infectious disease or nuclear accident might affect millions of people. The consequences of such a crisis might last for many months or even years. …

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