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The field of human services is a burgeoning field that is fairly broad in definition. It requires an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge, one that focuses on prevention as well as solving human problems, and a commitment to improving the quality of life of the population. This field is not just one focusing on delivery systems, but individuals who seek to improve accessibility, accountability, and coordination among all the stakeholders necessary (clients, government, agencies, co-workers, etc.) (Anspach, R., 1991). The key, however, to the area is being able to adequately manage multiple processes, sometimes multiple horizontal priorities, and still keep in mind that the client's needs and advocacy comes first. The context of HS Management is really in the environmental issues it encompasses- there is no one rubric for every situation, every client, or every stakeholder; but much depends on the manner in which the overall goals are being met for the individual situation. The most favorable environmental, or task environments, of course are the ones that are most appropriate, and that should be emphasized. This should be done in an open, friendly, cooperative environment, regardless of the particular stress and/or difficulty of the situation engendered (Patti, ed. 2009).
Within this field, there are numerous challenges; there are governmental issues, regulatory issues, budgetary issues, stakeholder issues, and even outside HMO and insurance issues; all that tend to influence and stress all aspects of the organization to the point where, at times, it is tempting to forget the very reason for the job itself -- human services. Emergency services are part of this macro service, and are organizations that ensure public safety and health by focusing on different types of emergencies. Many engage in awareness and prevention programs, many are about detecting and reporting, many are liason agencies, and many are a combination. In the macro scenario, the three main emergency service functions are: police (acting to provide community safety and reduce crime against persons or property); fire and rescue services (dealing with fire, rescue and secondary emergency situations); and Emergency medical services (ambulances, staff, or transportation to deal with emergencies). Within this broad category are a number of secondary services; search and rescue, mountain rescue, air search, etc. There are also civil emergency services that respond to safety-related issues as part of their on-the-job duties or part time - civiliar traffic, emergency social services, disaster relief, famine releaf, animal or posion control, and even volunteer ambulance services. The range is incredibly broad, and in theory the services should work in congruence with each other. In practice, this is sometimes not the case and at times, for instance Hurricane Katrina, the communication and coordination between services was so poor that the Department of Homeland Security has called for a nationwide implementation of the National Incident Management System, additional training, and even more focus on coordination efforts (Hardina, 2005; Haddow, et.al., 2011).
These issues bring to the forefront one of the key issues in Emergency Management -- that of consistent and well-thought-out leadership within the paradigm of crisis management and planning. In the normal course of events in business and society, most management groups are not adequately prepare to effectively deal with crisis situations: fires, natural disasters, bomb threats, or any type of willful acts of destruction. Two recent examples that showed just how underpreapared most organizations are were the 9/11 Trade Center attack and Hurricane Katrina; both failures in their own right of the ability to quickly and effectively manage crises situations. This historical event changed the lives of many Americans forever and proved that business communities as well as communities at large and in general are all susceptible to disasters or crisis at any time. These disruptions can also be very costly the economy in general, and have wide ranging consequences for individuals and culture alike. Since 9/11, there have been a preponderance of reports, books, academic tomes, and conferences on the subject of crisis management -- all with the idea of helping managers prepare for a well-thought out, considered plan with which to put into place during a crisis (Mitroff, 2005).
There are numerous aspects to crisis management in the contemporary world: natural disasters, technological crises, confrontation crises, crises of malevolence, crisis of misdeeds, and workplace violence. Along with these numerous types of crises there are, of course, numerous paradigms and theories on the best way to handle each type of crisis most effective. These include, but are not limited to: the Standard Crisis Management Model, Management Planning, Contingency Planning, Business Continuity Planning, Structural-Functional Systems Theory, Diffusion of Innovation Theory, and the Role of Apologies and Public Relations in Crisis Management (Augustine, 2000).
In general, crisis management focuses on three major activities: 1) What are the most appropriate methods of response to both real and perceived crises?, 2) What models and scenarios need to be defined that constitute a crisis and should engage a necessary and appropriate response?, and 3) What is the communication plan and chain that is necessary to ensure that the emergency phase of crisis management is handled appropriately? (Fink, 2000).
Since both Katrina and 9/11, and even prior with food recalls, the Jack-in-the-Box e.coli scare, the Tylenol poisonings, etc. The quality of response by the companies was directly indicative of the public perception both during the crisis and after. Each individual organization, in some cases the U.S. Government, dealt with recent crises differently -- and each had a differing response from the public and was able to retain credibility based on that response.
Defining crisis is necessary only to ensure a complete platform on which to base theoretical and practical solutions. Thus:
Natural Crises -- so called "acts of God," -- typically environmental, and unpreventable -- earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, droughts, etc. -- events that threaten property, the environment, and human life. Hurricane Katrina was a natural crisis.
Technological Crises - caused by a human application of science or technology. Typically these types of accidents are caused when a complex set of machinery breaksdown, or humans err in some way. These types of crises also tend to adversely affect the environment, and cause a great deal of psychological blame. Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl, software viruses, etc. are examples.
Confrontation Crises -- typically occur when groups form and lash out against another group or organization; boycotts, riots, blockades, resisting arrest, etc. The boycott of Nike was a confrontation crisis.
Crises of Malevolence -- occur when an individual or group uses hostile or criminal means to express their dissatisfaction or gain from another organization. Product tampering, kidnapping, malicious rumors, terrorism, espionage -- for instance the 1982 Chicago Tylenol product tampering murders
Crises of Misdeed -- organizational, skewed management, deception, management misconduct, etc. Organizational crises are caused when management takes action that will harm stakeholders or employees; skewed management crises occur when management neglects issues or priorities; crises of deception occur when management willfully misrepresents or hides information; crises of management misconduct are blatant disregard or deception of rules resulting in amoral or illegal behavior. Several examples come to mind: Big tobacco and nicotine; the improperly constructed silicone breast implant, the Martha Stewart fraud case, etc.
Workplace violence -- Crises occur when employee or former employee is enraged enough to cause harm in the workplace area, for instance a postal worker coming back from lunch and shooting colleagues (For the above, see: Hillyard, 2000; Mitroff).
Definitions are the beginning of the process, but it is the model and/or paradigm of handling the crisis that is more critical. As with the types of crises, there are several typological models for crises management:
Standard Crisis Management Model -- more reactionary, some planning prior to the crisis that allows at least a four-phrase response: issues, planning-prevention, the event, post crisis. The critical nature of this model is in the anticipation and ability to adequately plan ahead (Gonzales, et.al., 1995).
Management Crisis Planning -- an absolute necessity in today's competitive and volatile market -- no company wants a crisis, but without the ability to adequately prepare, a simple snafu can cause a significant disruption or even ruination of their business. This model ensures the best pre-planning possible for response to various types of crises ("Crisis Management," n.d.).
Contingency Planning -- An often neglected, but essential, first step in the crisis management plan. Any organization must be prepared for crisis behavior, and must brainstorm scenarios that help to adjust to varying possibilities. Since the first few hours, or sometimes even minutes, of a crisis are the most critical, a contingency plan should be ready and available, 24/7, 365 days - accessible to anyone who must immediately deal with the issues (Ibid).
Business Continuity Planning -- In almost every crisis, there is some type of interruption of the organizations behavior -- whether it be business, community service, or government. A business continuity plan is different than a contingency plan in that it identifies the critical functions and processes that are necessary to keep the organization running. A second part of this…[continue]
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