What is a crisis?
Crisis management models
Fire prevention strategies in United Kingdom
Why leadership is necessary in crisis management
Crisis Management leadership framework
Leadership and crisis resolution
It is estimated that fire accidents in United Kingdom kill almost 800 people and injure 15,000 other people every year (Wang Para. 1). In responding to accidents of fire, the findings also show that for the last six decades, the provision for crisis fire fighting response in the country has involved consideration for the density of the built environment (Wang, par.1).
Fire accidents are estimated to occur mostly in domestic areas as compared to urban areas whereby, 75 per cent of all deaths resulting from fire occur in domestic dwellings (Wang Para. 1).
As a result, major efforts in fighting fire have centered on developing risk-based asset management systems that in turn have been used to transfer reasonably, fire and rescue resources as well as improve the operations that for a long time have based on risks to life, property and the environment.
Fire accidents in nature of occurrence constitute a crisis, which if not properly managed may cause many damages. Past studies indicate that some treatment theories have been employed in facilitating fire risk assessment and management, but the detailed literatures reveal that there is absence of a holistic leadership crisis management framework that can be used in fire and rescue services.
In an attempt to address this specific identified research issue, this research paper will try to propose a leadership crisis management framework in relation to fire and rescue services.
The study will employ appropriate research methodologies and tools in reviewing the available literature based on crisis management before coming up with a framework that can be employed in fire and rescue services.
David Liss, analyze the term crisis and note that, “any circumstance or set of circumstances become a crisis at some point during the life of any organization or individuals” (Liss Para.
3). According to the author, a crisis is any event that inevitably has to befall an organization or individuals in their lifetime. Oxford Dictionary defines a crisis as the “a condition of instability in social, economic, political or international affairs leading to a decisive change; further, crisis is a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, for better or for worse is determined” (cited in Mukhopadhyay 1 ).
On the other hand, Samuel Miller state that “Crisis is God’s call to us to reach a new level of humanity, where after a disorder or chaos a new order takes place, after triumphing over an impending crisis, man has to learn to prevent recurrence of a similar crisis or to management a natural crisis after it has occurred” (cited in Mukhopadhyay 2).
Thomas Paine, credited as being one of the America’s founders of independence, was believed to have published the first stories concerning crisis which was later christened as, ‘The American Crisis’. He noted that every form of crisis constitutes a testing time of human and when the crisis is overcome after being managed properly, humans find a state of peace and tranquility (Mukhopadhyay 2).
From his stories, it is evident that in the eventuality of a crisis and afterwards, the fortune of humans are greatly transformed; thus “crisis is a short span of life during which many events are compressed and after the crisis is over a new development takes place during a longer span of life” (Mukhopadhyay 2).
Goel states that a crisis can be regarded as “a major, unpredictable event that threatens to harm an organization and its stakeholders and although crisis events are unpredictable they are not unexpected” (Goel p.25).
From this perspective, crises have the potential to cause impacts on all segments of the society that may include businesses, churches, educational institutions, families, non-profits, and the government.
The author establishes three characteristics that constitute a crisis, whereby a crisis is seen to be “a threat to the organization, the element of surprise, and a short decision time” (Goel 25).
Further, a crisis can be seen to have impacts on an organization in terms of operational viability, reputation of the organization, credibility of the organization, financial stability for the organization and legal action that the organization may encounter. When a crisis takes place, three major stages have to be fulfilled: pre-crisis, crisis, and resolution/post-crisis.
Martin Loosemore sums up the concept of crisis by noting that whatever level a crisis may take place or occur, a crisis is always seen as “a low probability, unexpected, high-impact event that is not covered by contingency plans and that crises represent an immediate and serious threat to high priority goals, placing managers under extreme time pressure to find a non-routine solution” (Loosemore 5)
Modern setting has presented a situation of inevitability for organizations and individuals to think or assume they are immune to crisis. Crisis may take place unexpectedly in form of accident, attack or just a natural calamity. As a result, it is becoming necessary to manage organizations in anticipation that crisis can happen any time.
Most definitions of crises have heavily associated crisis to a threat and despite this, many crisis management theories have paid little concern to the likely impacts of threat for effective decision making under any condition of crisis.
Liss note that it is an unavoidable fact that a crisis at some point will happen in an organization and therefore, management in most organizations have been instructed to have adequate plans in place on numerous occasions where they should allocate enough resources to deal with crises when they occur (Liss Para. 3).
Mukhopadhyay observes that, due to many crises that are befalling organizations, management of crisis and the subsequent prevention efforts to such crises has greatly assumed an increasing important role (Mukhopadhyay p.3).
Today, most organizations have established crisis or disaster management teams that are instituted with responsibilities of investigating causes of crisis, suggested ways to avoid such crisis and recommend mechanisms to manage a crisis after it has occurred. In analyzing the concept of crisis management, there are key issues in form of questions that guide crisis management teams.
For instance, Mukhopadhyay notes that the most relevant questions asked about crisis management are “why did the crisis occur, was the crisis managed effectively and efficiently, could chaos be prevented during the crisis, could the crisis be averted, would the crisis reoccur, and so on” (Mukhopadhyay 3).
Crisis management involves efforts to prevent crises from taking, adequate preparation for a better protection against the impact of a crisis agent, making an effective response to an actual crisis, and providing plans and key resources for recovery and rehabilitation in the aftermath of a crisis.
According to National Research Council-U.S, crisis management constitute all activities that range from the immediate response to mitigation and preparedness efforts that are always aimed at reducing the consequence of future actions and take place over a longer time period (National Research Council-U.S
2). Therefore, crisis management involves four main phases:
(1) crisis response, where quick actions are needed in terms of coordinating necessary resources and facilities in order to address the crisis.
(2) Crisis recovery, where numerous short-term activities are designed in order for the organization to go back to normal situation and long-term activities that generally are designed to return infrastructure systems to predisaster conditions.
3) Mitigation, this involves formulating and adhering to systematic efforts with aim to reduce the effects of disasters on people and property.
4) Preparedness, on its part involves the various activities that are adopted before a crisis occurs and they may include training and exercises that may be intended to increase readiness in relation to crisis response (National Research Council-U.S p.4).
Numerous theories have been developed that address the issue of crisis management, for instance, Pearson and Clair, developed a model of crisis management which postulated that effectiveness of any crisis management process is affected by executive perceptions about risk, the environment context, individual and collective responses, and planned responses (cited in Turner 456 ).
Mitroff and Pearson on the other hand presented a multistage model which could be utilized to respond to crisis, where they suggested that effective response to crisis are more likely to be successful if the organization has adequately prepared for the crises and again if the management team has adequately received necessary training.
Accordingly, they suggest that effective management of crises can be achieved when detection activities are undertaken, damage and containment activities are pursued, and communication with the media is effectively handled (cited in Turner p.456).
Gonzalez-Herrero and Pratt on the other hand created “a four-phase crisis management model process that includes: issues management, planning-prevention, the crisis, and post-crisis” (cited in Small Business Encyclopedia 1). The model postulates that for a crisis to be effectively managed there is need to define the crisis that has occurred and the factors that have contributed to the occurrence of the crisis.
Another model is the management crisis-planning model, which outlines that although no organization anticipates to be struck by an immediate disaster, which can result into media scrutiny, the organization’s management is however supposed to be prepared to give the best response to any crisis when it eventually occurs (Small Business Encyclopedia 1).
Contingency planning theory on the other perspective suggests that organizations should have in place early response mechanisms before a crisis can occur.
In this regard, organizations should have crisis management plans that formulated by crisis management teams, and the crisis management plans should clearly indicate the people who are supposed to speak for the organization when a crisis occurs.
The model further indicates that when crises do take place, the crisis management team should act with speed and efficiency if effective management of the crisis is to be realized.
Further, the contingency plan should be design in such a way that, “it contain information and guidance that will help decision makers to consider not only the short-term consequences but the long-term effects of every decision” (Small Business Encyclopedia 1).
Lastly, there is the structural-functional systems model, which on its part notes that during the period of a crisis it is important to provide adequate and reliable information to the organization if any effective crisis management is to be realized (Small Business Encyclopedia 1).
Moreover, the model identifies how information networks and levels of command are crucial in making up the organizational communication and it postulate that information circulation in the organization is carried out in networks that involve members and different links (Small Business Encyclopedia 1).
Since the fire regulation safety measures were instituted, there has been a decrease in number of fire accidents in the country (Bratt Para. 1).
However, what is notable is the fact that even with available safety regulations, there is no 100 per cent guarantee of safety when fire strikes. The formulation of the safety regulations has been commended as one big leap towards managing crisis caused fires and this may earn appreciation in some section of the society.
However, evidence from the safety regulation manuals shows little attention has been paid to the role a manager or the head of an institution should play in managing crisis of fire (Bratt Para. 1). Moreover, leadership has been recognized as the key aspect that when effectively used in an organization, then management of fire crisis can be addressed appropriately.
Fire safety regulations requires institutions, organizations and even individuals to “design any structure with fire safety in mind, equip the structure with firefighting equipment, regularly monitor the conditions of the equipment, and lastly to conduct fire safety training for all employees” (Bratt Para. 1-5).
These steps and requirements are perfect, but when the role of leadership is divorced from them then their success is doomed.
Crisis management has been seen as a young field and therefore little efforts have been done to train managers and other organizational leaders on how well to manage crises. For example, according to an article published by Free Management Library, an effective crisis management plan should involve “forecasting potential crises and planning how to deal with them” (Free Management Library Para. 1).
Further, the article suggests that many organizations possess key resources and time that are crucial in completing a crisis management plan before any crisis can strike the organization.
In the modern world where crisis is inevitable, crisis management techniques largely dwell on identifying the actual nature of the crisis that has taken place or is likely to take place; in a systematic way intervene in order to reduce the damaging effect of the crisis; and finally, device ways to recover from the crisis (Free Management Library par.1).
Throughout this process, an effective leadership is instrumental in realizing the goals of any crisis management plan.
Crisis management as defined earlier is the process “by which an organization deals with a major unpredictable event that threatens to harm the organization, its stakeholders, or the general public” (Matai Para. 1). Managers who have an overall role to ensure the success and continuity of the organization lead organizations; hence, they have a responsibility to avert any crisis or threat to the organization.
Second, when a crisis has taken place in the organization performance of things will have to change. New ways to deal with future crises will need to be developed and the person to facilitate and foster this is a leader of the organization. Leadership therefore is intertwined with crisis management. Matai notes that leaders have a role to reduce the effects of a crisis when it occurs.
In addition, they should be the people at fore front to address the strategic challenges which their organizations face, formulate ways to avoid the reoccurrence of such pitfalls and the general paths they should establish in order to follow in managing crises (Matai par.8).
According to the author, crisis leadership constitutes five important tasks: “sense making, decision making, and meaning making, terminating, and learning” (Matai par.8).
Source: ALAGSE, N.d.
As expressed earlier in the literature, effective leadership is the key to efficient crisis management in any organization. First, six key leadership characteristics have been identified that are crucial in any crisis.
The six are: the leader confronted with any crisis should as the first step create and establish trust in the organization;
leader should embark on a detailed process of instituting reforms with the aim of changing the widespread mindset of the organization with regard to crisis;
leader should institute a process that he or she can use to identify the observable and incomprehensible vulnerabilities that the organization may be facing;
leader to be wise and first in making decisions that need courage; and lastly, leader should have ability to learn from the crisis and in coordinated way lead the process of effecting change (Small Business Encyclopedia 1).
Further, research done in the area of crisis management and leadership have found out that for a leader to succeed in managing a particular crisis, the organization’s environment should be competent enough to offer the leader with the necessary help through the existence of firm structures in the organization.
On his part, Goel observes that effectiveness of leader in crisis management can be realized when the particular fulfills certain and key requirements.
1) The leader has “to institutionalize the process of crisis management to anticipate, prepare, and mitigate a likely crisis,” and to succeed in this, the leader needs the support of the organization (Goel 248).
2) The leader has the responsibility to clarify the goals and purpose of the crisis management plan, which in its formulation should reflect the goals, values, objectives, and philosophy of the organization. Leadership at this level should provide guidance as to how crisis management policy should be drafted and the leader should provide an enabling environment for the members to carry out their responsibilities.
3) The leader has the mandate to establish a crisis management team tasked with the responsibility to ensure all crises, both existing and potential ones are dealt with completely. At this stage, leadership should be at forefront in empowering the core team in carrying out its duties.
4) Next is for the leader to foster an effective and elaborate communication strategy and infrastructure during the period of crisis, as this will help to ensure there is timely and reliable communication both to internal and external stakeholders at all times.
5) Further, the leader collaborates with external agencies in a bid to enhance skills and resources to mitigate any potential crises in the future.
6) The leader should be able and ready to institute training that relates to crisis management to members in the organization, as this will help the members to be prepared in case a crisis occur (Goel 248).
Source: ALAGSE, N.d
After a crisis has taken place in all measures, the organization and other key stakeholders look to the leadership as the instrument to resolve the crisis. As such, crisis resolution has evolved to become part of crisis management and hence role for the leader to carry out.
The assumption here is that there may be availability of effective crisis management plans and tools as far as the organization is prepared to respond to a crisis.
However, the success of such instruments will rely on the particular and unique direction the leader adopts, thus the outcome of the adopted direction will greatly affect the overall perception the public and other stakeholders will have about the organization (ALAGSE Para. 9). Therefore, the values the leader creates and establishes over a period will act as the gauge where the leader will effectively resolve the crisis.
Although no adequate framework can be developed as to how a leader can handle crisis resolution more effectively, there has existed a possible framework, which can be adopted by various organizations of course with possible adjustment in accordance to the specific organization.
The crisis resolution framework is based on the assumption that a crisis in any organization should be expected and hence, there needs to be a strategic plan coupled with risk management plan.
In resolving the crisis, the leader has to utilize various lessons he or she has learnt and acquired then make a clear communication to the organization members, a procedure that should manifest itself in learning. This will enable the leader to effect the necessary changes.
Crises in organizations are inevitable. While some crises may be predictable, others happen unexpectedly with a surprise. However, organizations irrespective of their nature or size cannot claim to be immune to crises. Every organization is at risk, thus the sound leadership will define the continuity of the organization during and after crisis.
Crisis management therefore will greatly succeed if there is an effective leadership that is able to facilitate and implement an effective crisis management plan. Without a sound leadership however, there may be crisis management plans and teams, while the organization will not escape the impacts of the crisis when it occur.
Therefore, it is prudent for all organizations and other institutions to develop a reliable, effective, and dependable crisis management leadership that can be instrumental in guiding the organization towards effective management of crises.
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