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Submitted by: Daniel Sommer
One of the goals of every organization is to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. However, no matter how efficient companies are running, threats exist that challenge that efficiency. Negative events (crisis) can assail a company at any time and most likely every organization will be faced with dealing with such an issue. The hope of any company is to keep a crisis from turning into a disaster. Disaster management education, and crisis management training, when incorporated in an emergency response plan, provides knowledge to prepare for critical incidents and reduce the resources and time lost to battling such incidents.
The term disaster is often difficult to accurately define, though many relate the term to natural disasters. For the purpose of discussion, a disaster could be defined as an event that is beyond the capabilities of an organization and requires the need for outside assistance. Typically these situations deal with large, on-going situations that affect many people. The event cannot be contained and the affected organization can no longer function independently. The situation then becomes a disaster as more and more people are affected.
Disaster management education is designed to outline the operations of disaster management in order to reduce the ongoing impact on the company or organization. Some of the aspects involved in disaster management are geared towards mitigating the potential impact of a problem, such as zoning laws for safe placement of industrial complexes and building codes for stronger structures. Other aspects involve post disaster plans such as emergency power, backup computer data, and secondary operational sites, to name only a few. In the case of natural disasters, evacuation plans, emergency food and medical needs are part of the disaster plan. Often with natural disasters government agencies are involved as the needs go beyond the capabilities of the normal organization.
Crisis management training involves scenarios of a more localized nature, but which have the potential to escalate into a disaster. The purpose of crisis management is to stop the initial problem and begin the repair process. If the crisis management plan is effective the problem can be solved in-house and requires no intervention to assist in the issue. During a crisis an organization continues to operate, but without proper attention the situation could escalate beyond its control.
In 1982 a series of poisonings via the product Tylenol caused the deaths of seven people and put the parent company, Johnson and Johnson, in a difficult position. The poisonings were a malicious act by an unknown attacker, but Johnson and Johnson was looked upon as being responsible for fixing the issue. It was their response to the situation that prevented the crisis from becoming a disaster and has been considered the launch of the field of crisis management. Not only did the company stop the spread of physical harm, the actions of Johnson and Johnson also helped prevent a financial disaster.
Crisis management training provides tools and articulates methods to identify problems and techniques to implement emergency procedures in an effort to stop further losses. In the example of Tylenol, the company focused on eliminating further harm by immediately taking all Tylenol products off the shelves across the country. They then re-packaged their products, which included the tamper resistant packaging with which we are now familiar. The quick reaction of Johnson and Johnson to the Tylenol poisonings prevented the need for federal intervention and avoided public outcry. Although not an official crisis management plan, their handling of the situation became the unofficial origin of crisis management.
In contrast to Johnson and Johnson, unfortunate examples do exist of poor crisis management. Hurricane Katrina would likely have gone down as a disaster no matter how well prepared, but the lack of an effective crisis management plan added to the chaos and allowed for additional loss of lives and services. The governmental agencies involved in the Katrina were aware of the coming storm, but implemented only an initial response, which of course led to the eventual massive disaster that cost the lives of over 1,800 people. It is this type of event that crisis management training attempts to mitigate or avoid entirely.
When dealing with the possibility of a major negative event, proper education can provide the necessary tools to design and implement an emergency response plan with the goal of reducing the overall loss of services. That plan can make the difference in stopping the crisis or allowing the situation to become a disaster where outside assistance is needed. Getting crisis management training and disaster management education from a qualified institution is crucial for anyone in the risk management field in order to prevent a situation from going from bad to worse.
About the Author: Dan Sommer works for Henley-Putnam University, a leading educational institution in the field of Strategic Security. For more info on Henley-Putnam University,
disaster management education
crisis management training
, call 888-852-8746 or visit us online at http://www.Henley-Putnam.edu