A Beginner's Guide to Learning Emergency Management

By Adams, Shawn | Risk Management, May 2002 | Go to article overview

A Beginner's Guide to Learning Emergency Management


Adams, Shawn, Risk Management


In the past ten years, the United States has experienced a race riot, destructive hurricanes, a major earthquake, droughts, floods, the Oklahoma City bombing and close to an electricity-less California. Back a few more decades, there were volcanic eruptions the near

meltdown of a nuclear plant and the Tylenol poisonings.

Regardless of this history of crises, however, the events of September 11 placed new emphasis on the importance of crisis management. with responsibility for developing emergency management plans often handed to professionals new to the field. Fortunately, while implementing a crisis management program for your firm can be incredibly complex and detailed, the overall process of crisis management is not difficult to understand. There are a number of resources for the risk manager to access in order to become better prepared to oversee the management of a particular crisis. One of the positive aspects of crisis management is that, while in-depth knowledge is obtained, emergency management planning can begin.

FEMA's Four Steps to Emergency Management

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognizes four steps in dealing with crisis management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

1. Mitigation, FEMA describes mitigation efforts as "those which try to eliminate or reduce the impact of a hazard, Such as the traditional lightning rod." These are the same responsibilities that are a part of any risk management program, but they are focused specifically on preventing or minimizing the loss of catastrophic events.

2. Preparedness. This phase means nothing more than taking the risk that has been identified and, after mitigating it, starting to prepare for the unthinkable. For example, many of the firms that lost employees in the World Trade Center did not foresee an event where several hundred employees could be killed. They are now separating their employees to reduce the numbers that could be killed by a single attack. Even with mitigation efforts, these companies are taking steps to prepare for an unpredicted attack so that, if it occurs, the human, material and financial resources are ready, organized, trained and available.

3. Response. When a crisis does arise, the preparedness phase has ended and the third FEMA phase begins. In the response phase, all plans are put into action.

4. Recovery. This is the phase that is ongoing for many in New York. The psychological counseling of survivors and the families of those who died is a prime example of the recovery phase. Ironically, in the mitigation and preparedness phases, there is a major focus on cost, while in the response and recovery phases, there will be an underlying wish that more had been done to prepare.

Learning Resources

Implementing the four phases of crisis management for the specific needs of your organization requires a deeper knowledge of emergency planning and operations techniques. Fortunately, resources are available and come in many forms to meet your organization's budget and time constraints. From military and governmental sources to civilian organizations, instruction is available for free or for a fee, in informal settings or as part of an emergency planning degree program.

One of the best sources of training available for learning more about crisis management is through the government. FEMA has more than twodozen home study courses in a variety of subjects. The courses cover everything from general topics on crisis management to preparations for a nuclear attack.

FEMA is also a good source for links to many more agencies, such as the National Fire Academy, which offers its own home study courses. These courses are usually without charge, are often available through the Internet and can earn students college credit. Even more important, these courses offer the same high-quality training that professional crisis managers take to prepare for their responsibilities in the government and in the private sector. …

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