3.1. Enhancing the capacity to adapt to both expected and unexpected events
Emergency situations occur suddenly and without warning. Therefore, organizations must be prepared and adapt their functions to respond to emergency events as quickly as possible. Among those situations, some of the events are expected while others, could be unexpected with different nature. Roles, training, strategies, and procedures must be in place to provide such capacity, using an all-hazards approach which considers the common denominator of emergency situations in different areas, building a generic response plans that can be adapted to a specific event.
- 1 Implementation
- 1.1 Introduction
- 1.2 Before a crisis
- 1.3 During a crisis
- 1.4 After a crisis
- 2 Understanding the context
- 2.1 Detailed objectives
- 2.2 Targeted actors
- 2.3 Expected benefits
- 2.4 Relation to adaptive capacity
- 2.5 Relation to risk management
- 2.6 Illustration
- 2.7 Implementation considerations
- 3 Relevant material
- 3.1 Relevant Practices, Methods and Tools
- 3.2 References
- 3.3 Terminology
- 4 Navigate in the DRMG
In order to enhance organizations' capacity to adapt to all events (both expected and unexpected), it is recommended that response plans have two main features – that they are based on everyday operations, and designed using the all-hazards approach.
- Everyday operations
While crisis situations differ from routine operational challenges and disruptions, the capacity to adapt in crisis stems from the same general capacity used in everyday operations. In addition, familiarity of personnel with known procedures and guidelines makes it easier to implement them and operate during emergencies.
- All-hazard Approach
It is important that organizations map and understand potential emergencies, recognizing mutual components of different threats. Thus, they can build a generic response plan for many types of unexpected events, while each threat has a specific extension to its relevant needs.
The next stage is to build a mechanism (strategies, procedures, and tools) that identify roles and responsibilities, missions and goals. Personnel must be trained to work within this mechanism, and its effectiveness assessed. For further information regarding understanding roles and responsibility, please read the CC of Understanding roles and Responsibilities.
Such mechanisms need to be rehearsed, with the understanding that actual events will likely be different from anticipated situations. Assessment means learning from both failure and success, and regularly reviewing and revising. A mechanisms that supports adaptation, means having invested resources in capturing/clarifying strategies, resources and constrains. Please see more information relating to noticing brittleness and identifying sources of resilience. The implementation of this CC requires a shift in the organization's perception of emergency management. Sometime, organizations may seek assistance from resilience management experts in applying these approaches.
Before a crisis
Before crises occur, preparedness activities are critical for creating the conditions for maintaining contingency and adaptation in a crisis. During non-emergency periods, organizations should first map their potential emergency situations based on experts' experience and knowledge and relevant professional literature. Following the mapping, they must identify mutual components of preparedness, including personnel behavior and checklists for action. Checklists must include required activities, and names with contact information of internal and external actors that have to be involved during those situations. The organization must analyze carefully each scenario (based on potential emergencies) in order to understand the uniqueness of each situation and to add adjusted components beyond the initial response plan. After classifying the structure of response plans (initial and adjusted components), we recommend building the plans around daily activities and operations. In this way, the organization uses known resources, and increases the familiarity of personnel with guidelines. This approach affects also on management and monitoring different type of buffers. After mapping the emergency scenarios, it is important to have appropriate equipment that in a time of a crisis will assist to create time or room for maneuvering. For more information about managing and monitor buffers, we recommend to read the CC of managing available resources. It is important that it is clear whose role it is to in charge of crisis management. This role should be nominated during the pre-crisis period. His/her tasks include being able to monitor and assess the complete picture, and together with the organization’s managers define the roles and responsibilities of involved actors. For a deeper understanding of the subject, please read the CC Understanding roles and Responsibilities. Managers should be trained in assessing the situation against prepared-for specific situations and recognize when coordination with relevant partners outside of established channels is necessary to coordinate response. For this important issue, please read the CC of Promoting Common Ground.
- What variables/data are monitored to assess whether there is a crisis? What is the underlying rationale for the monitoring efforts and what limitations does this approach have? What crisis information is difficult to capture in variables/data?
- Could we classify emergencies according to their nature?
- Do we identify mutual component of different types of emergencies?
Build a mechanism for response plans
- Do we have an actor who will be in charge of, coordinate or synchronize crisis management planning and response?
- Do we design the response plans based on everyday manner? Do we use known resource to handle unexpected situations?
- Do we have appropriate equipment to the first stage of the emergency?
- How are such managers trained to recognize when unexpected events occur that challenge the current organisational structure and processes?
- How do we define potential relevant partners to coordinate with in case of expected and unexpected situations?
- Are lists of “good-to-have” contacts available in case unexpected situations occur that may require contacting actors outside of established communication channels?
- Do we (re-)develop response plans based on new experiences?
- Do we have response plans as well as training such as exercise and drills?
- Do we model protocols to promote a common approach?
- How do we create communication channels and networks between partners so that they can adaptively coordinate and cooperate when unexpected situations occur?
- Can the adaptive re-allocation and deployment of resources within and between organisations be supported by building in slack in appropriate places in the network to meet unexpected demands?
During a crisis
During an emergency, organizations are called upon to handle challenging situations, balancing between needs and limited resources in an unknown atmosphere. Basing activities on known manners allows actors to function in familiar way, increasing their capacity and confidence. There is a need to scarify non-essential functions. During the first stage of the crisis, while the organization acts according to the basic response plans, it must also diagnose the specific emergency, and adjust organizational plans to relevant situation and needs. It must remember to balance between various needs in accordance with different organizational levels. Contact and work in coordination with external actors who may assist and deploy extra resources.
- Are plans available and applicable?
- How can or should elements of plans be combined to meet situational demands?
- How can missing or inappropriate plan elements be added or compensated for (through improvisation)?
- Are organisational plans applicable in this situation or do other mandates?
- What uncertainties are there in the situation?
- For which aspects of the situation are we less than well-prepared?
- Are facts, domain knowledge, and experiential knowledge that we need to assess and/or act on the situation available to us?
Contact and work in collaboration with relevant actors
- Do we need to contact with relevant actors?
- How can we communicate with other/new actors in order to understand the complete picture of the event?
- Are the actors familiar with the actions they should take?
After a crisis
In the aftermath of critical events, there is a need to implement review processes, and revise plans and procedures according to assessment results. From the perspective of the all-hazard approach, it is important to evaluate the structure of response plans, identifying common components for various emergencies and the uniqueness of each threat. From the perspective of links between everyday operations and actions during a crisis, the lesson learning may affect both daily activities as well as further emergencies.
- How did they solve unexpected or not-planned-for situations?
- Does the planning process generate relevant, applicable and useful plans?
- Could the structure of response plans be improved based on core elements and specific components ?
Everyday operation and regular activities
- Which aspects of the situation were the actors involved in the response familiar with?
- Which were new to them?
- Could the organization advance everyday operations according to the evaluation of activities during the emergency?
- Did the organisation as a whole recognize these unexpected situations when they occurred?
- How can organisational processes be improved to recognize and act upon the unexpected in a better way?
- Was there a proactive action to recognize unexpected circumstances?
- How can planning and training processes be improved?
- Does training have the desired effect?
Understanding the context
Emergency response plans commonly guide a specific action in a specific event. The approach takes into account the common denominator of emergency situations in different areas and treats them as the thinking process proposed in this card prepares relevant actors with a framework for action rather than a blueprint for action. Monitoring and control activities are to be implemented with the purpose to check if roles, process and training support the adaptation of organizational structure in a flexible way to the changing demands of the operational environment. A “framework for action” needs to be periodically verified against the need for assessing when organizational processes, structures, strategies need to adapt to be flexible, and how to implement these changes and adaptations effectively.
Actors directly concerned by this concept card are decision and policy makers, and crisis managers. The guideline is relevant at all administrative and management levels, since adaptive capability also concerns front line operators, and roles who (re-)design response plans.
This card facilitates the development of response plans as well as strategies, design and implementation of training based on routine operations addressing goal conflict, sacrifice decision making to both expected and unexpected events (all-hazard approach and everyday operations). This resilience approach address network interactions and is more likely to facilitate and enable responsible actors to deal with more complex incidents and emergencies potentially involving more than one type of hazard or opportunities, and combination of expected and unexpected circumstances. The actors involved in the operational response plans and acting will recognize the responsibilities and actions that should be taken or might be applicable.
Relation to adaptive capacity
It promotes adaptive performance prior, during and after emergency situations through the adaptation of organizational processes and structures in response to situational demands. The fitness-for-purpose of plans are complemented with practices (formal and informal) and organizational processes for adapting to circumstances with respect to expected and unexpected events, enhances the adaptive capacity for dealing with unknown and unforeseen situations. This will be achieved by a) flexibility in building and applying plans and practices; b) capability to interpret the situation and to work out interventions accordingly; and c) capability to adjust procedures in progress. These capabilities can be achieved through training and reflection on action.
Relation to risk management
Emergency response plans commonly guide a specific action in a specific event. In addition, resilience management promotes the development of plans and practices that provide the opportunity to identify likely threats as well as opportunities, think through their capabilities, identify key resources, explore contingencies and what for what kinds of events the organisation is well/less-prepared, and develop alternative action practices, strategies in a network of actors that are exercised to stretch adaptive capacity.
The need to strengthen the capacity of European Member States to coordinate the public health response to cross border threats, whether from biological, chemical, environmental events or events which have an unknown origin. (see relevant practices at the example of practices).
Classification of available procedures and practices, taking in account expected and unexpected events. The absence of shared or coordinated procedures among all levels and types of actors involved in the crisis management (for instance, to all actors layers involved in the management of the organs transplantation, i.e. national and regional transplantation centers, regional emergency agency, traffic corporation, etc.)
Building response plans based on an all-hazard approach, reduces development costs. Since, the core part of these plans to different scenario is uniform. Establishing the response plans on everyday operations increases the employees' familiarity with the required actions in emergencies, Therefore there is less need for investing resources with the learning process.
Relevant Practices, Methods and Tools
 Real Time Risk Assessment (Lay, Branlat and Woods; 2015) This tool was developed in the context of industrial maintenance and aims at providing support to teams experiencing challenging (novel, complex, difficult) situations at maintenance sites. Within one hour, a geographically separated, diverse group in terms of knowledge, skills, function level, and roles, convenes via telephone conference to collaboratively analyse the problem and explore solutions. At the end of the meeting, project managers on site have various courses of actions vetted by remote experts, which can be implemented to improve the situation.
 Anticipating resource crunches
 Tactical reserves "All hands" alarm.
- Dawes, Sharon S., Anthony M. Cresswell, and Bruce B. Cahan. Learning from crisis lessons in human and information infrastructure from the world trade center response. Social Science Computer Review 22.1 (2004): 52-66.
- Duarte-Davidson, R., et al. Recent advances to address European Union Health Security from cross border chemical health threats. Environment international 72 (2014): 3-14.
- Pollet, J., & Cummins, J. (2009, May). All hazards approach for assessing readiness of critical infrastructure. In Technologies for Homeland Security, 2009. HST'09. IEEE Conference on (pp. 366-372). IEEE.
- Kaundinya, I., Nisancioglu, S., Kammerer, H., & Oliva, R. (2016). All-hazard guide for transport infrastructure. Transportation research procedia, 14, 1325-1334.
- Son, C., Sasangohar, F., & Peres, S. C. (2017, September). Redefining and Measuring Resilience in Emergency Management Systems. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting (Vol. 61, No. 1, pp. 1651-1652). Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.
- Rankin, A., Lundberg, J., Woltjer, R., Rollenhagen, C., & Hollnagel, E. (2014). Resilience in everyday operations: a framework for analyzing adaptations in high-risk work. Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, 8(1), 78-97.
- Zio, E., Piccinelli, R., & Sansavini, G. (2011, September). An all-hazard approach for the vulnerability analysis of critical infrastructures. In ESREL 2011 (pp. 2451-2458).
- Parent theme: Managing adaptive capacity
- Resilience abilities
- Categories: Planning, Procedures, Training, Governance, Learning lessons, Resources
- Functions of crisis management: BEFORE, Preparation: build knowledge; train; plan, DURING:, Command and control; execute and revise plan, AFTER, Learning: revise crisis management processes; assess performance