Crisis Management – A comprehensive plan for action | Daily News


Crisis Management – A comprehensive plan for action

In the complex and highly globalized world in which we live, external factors that affect individuals, communities, enterprises and even nations occur on a daily basis. These may impact in a damaging way in the long term.

Hence it is of paramount importance to ensure that these incidents, which could be called ‘crises’, are handled in a careful and timely manner to negate or minimize extensive economic damage or in extreme cases, the loss of lives.

A clear understanding of international relations and global economics is a must to be able to provide the correct responses when dealing with such contingencies. In the past, different types of authorities have dealt with crises giving birth to a new type of specialized area known as “crisis management”.

Crisis Management has identified and catalogued problems under various categories including Acts of God, which are essentially natural disasters: technological problems such as the Tchernobyl and Fukushima accidents; confrontations include demonstrations and riots; malevolence cover deliberate acts of sabotage such as the 1982 Thylenol tampering in Chicago; organisational misdeeds; the spreading of rumours and finally acts of terrorism.

Hostile actions

The nature of the ongoing crisis that Sri Lanka is facing would be essentially fall under the acts of terrorism category but be expanded to include confrontation, malevolence and spreading of false rumours.

To counter these hostile actions, it is important to set in place a comprehensive crisis management mechanism that is capable of dealing and managing such a situation.

There are several elements that need to be taken into account. The first is undoubtedly signal detection. By signal detection this writer is referring to the need to identify a problem long before it actually takes place. A crisis takes an organic form and should ideally be detected early and resolved as soon as there are indicators that point towards a looming danger.

The second phase in this writer’s opinion is the need to implement a mechanism that will result in increased preparedness and prevention. The institution in question, in this instance the state should prepare for the worst case scenario. Since the crisis assumes an organic form, every effort needs to be made to prevent it from escalating.

Some organisations such as the Red Cross have understood this well and are well geared to manage crises at different stages of their progression.

The Containment phase of a crisis is therefore of vital importance. This is essentially dealing with the subject of damage control. From its initial meaning covering the prevention of damage to human lives, buildings and infrastructure, damage control has been extended to encompass financial losses caused essentially by reputational damage and loss of confidence. Containment is now increasingly about countering negative publicity.

The next important stage of crisis management is business recovery and States and other organisations should, even while there is an ongoing crisis, never stop thinking about how to put the state back on track and implement all the necessary measures to get back to business.

While this may be very difficult at an early stage given that resources both human and material, are used to fighting the crisis, the importance of the business recovery stage needs to be underscored. It is essential for the State to show that it has not been floored and that it has by and large successfully managed the crisis.

Valuable lessons

Many crises can be very unpleasant and indeed tragic experiences which the affected states would like to forget and put behind them. But this may well be the wrong approach and ironically and to a large extent paradoxically, the challenges may prove to be valuable lessons on how best to respond in the most trying of circumstances. Hence the need to see the crisis as a learning experience. A country that has faced such a challenge is indeed a stronger country and it will be better prepared in the future. A key element to the management of any crisis is the communications angle of it. It is vital that the messages that the state wants sent out should reach all levels of society.

The communication strategy should target all stakeholder in society including on the one hand the political, economic and intellectual elite of a country and on the other the masses which constitute the average people and the majority.

For such a crisis to be effectively managed on the Communications front the messages should be clear, consistent, credible and regular. Media organisations play an important role in communicating the right messages. These are some points that can be considered in crisis management. They are applicable for a country such as Sri Lanka which has faced challenges both manmade and natural disasters in the past but has shown remarkable resilience and maturity in managing crises.


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