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G.B. Reschenthaler & Fred Thompson

organizations.2    

Table 1. On Perspectives of Crisis Management

Operational-Technical

Perspective

Political-Symbolic

Perspective

Threats from People

and Groups

Foci:

Command and control

Consequence management

Strategic interaction

High stakes decision making

Foci:

Threat politics

Problem framing

Stakeholders’ views

Institutional cooperation

Nature of communication process

Threats Due to

Structural Problems

Foci:

Complex accidents and natural disasters

Local and regional levels

Relieve human suffering

Time pressure

Foci:

Public policy analysis

Agenda setting

Performance accountability

Public legitimacy

Interaction with media

For purposes of our conversation, I consider emergency and mainly crisis conditions, that is, the capacity of organizations/institutions to respond reliably to:

a)  well understood, operational situations that if allowed to evolve could result in serious degradation of capacity and loss of resources and/or life (i.e., emergencies), and

b)  unexpected situations that produce demands perceived potentially to overwhelm institutional capacities and are likely to inflict severe, possibly irreversible damage to known and unknown sectors of society  (i.e., crises).

Our attention to crisis management could focus tightly on damage limitation, that is, to assure the institutional capacities needed to respond to unexpected, potentially overwhelming circumstances that are likely to deliver punishing blows to human life, to political or economic viability, and/or to environmental integrity, that is, rude surprises.

Further, crisis management could (and in my view should) also entail searching out the potentials for unexpected, overwhelming circumstances and then working to increase our understanding of them along with practices and operational capacities so their “crises potential” is reduced to less threatening emergency challenges.  If these are successful, the range of circumstances that would produce crises is narrowed, with a reduction in the perceived potential for the spike in public anxiety that comes from a sense that social institutions may falter in the face of seriously

2 My view is further shaped by a particular interest in public institutions that are rooted in demanding technical operations and are characterized by high capacity and intrinsic hazards where failures may be very costly, and where social risks may extend widely across space and over a number of management generations. And I confess is informed with only a little emphasis on the literature of crisis management per se.  I fear  these conceptual reflections may be redundant or fit oddly in that literature.

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