Volume 1, Issue 4 (Summer 2016 -- 2016)                   Health in Emergencies and Disasters Quarterly 2016, 1(4): 215-224 | Back to browse issues page

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Alexander D. Book Abstract: How to Write an Emergency Plan by David Alexander; Reproduced by Permission. Health in Emergencies and Disasters Quarterly 2016; 1 (4) :215-224
URL: http://hdq.uswr.ac.ir/article-1-120-en.html
UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, University College London, London, UK.
Abstract:   (7468 Views)

In 2002, David Alexander wrote Principles of Emergency Planning and Management. Long a standard reference work in that book he described the processes of preparing for and responding to disasters, crises, and civil contingencies. He based the work on principles because he wanted to dissociate it from any particular system of emergency management. Then, as now, many books in this subject are tied to individual systems of public administration, particularly the federal system of the United States of America, which somewhat limits their usefulness in other contexts. However, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ civil protection system that can act as a template for all eventualities. Nevertheless, David Alexander does not believe that, in terms of how emergency response is organized, there must necessarily be fundamental differences between the world’s richest and poorest countries. They all need safety and rapid response to civil contingencies. All countries can learn from others and derive benefit from incorporating good practice from abroad into their own systems, with modifications to fit local conditions. Equipment may be expensive, but planning to make the best use of what one has or can afford is not likely to break the bank.
The feedback he received from the Principles book was generally positive, but it indicated that some readers were facing with severe practical problems in frontline jobs that required them to provide workable answers. Many were new to emergency planning and did not know where to start. So, when David Alexander found the time to consider building on his earlier Principles, he decided to give it a more ‘hands on’ profile and to endeavor in meeting the needs of people who had been given the task of writing and implementing emergency plans. To maximize the geographical scope of the book, he decided to stay with his decision not to tie the explanations to particular systems and countries, in the expectation that users of the new book will be able to make the necessary connections and adapt his general approaches to the configuration of services in any country or region.
Some readers may be skeptical about the value of emergency planning. It is true that in a crisis the first thing that goes out of the window is the plan. However, David Alexander believes passionately, not in the plan as a document or instrument, but in the process of planning. He believes that emergency planning should be a flexible process that is able to adapt to dynamically changing circumstances. Moreover, the process must not stop when a basic document, ‘the plan,’ has been prepared: it should continue right through the next emergency to the recovery phases.
An emergency plan is a structured document, an instrument that outlines the responses envisaged for certain kinds of civil contingency, such as a flood, a major snowstorm or a transportation crash with casualties. Emergency planning is simultaneously an art and a science. It involves ‘thinking the unthinkable’, so that people can be ready for those aspects of an emergency that require preparation beforehand because they cannot effectively be improvised during the crisis. There are so many ramifications of emergency planning that not all of them can be covered in a book such as “How to Write an Emergency Plan.” However, the skill that must be learned is to think through the implications of prior decision-making. Some implications are obvious but many are not, which is one of the main justifications for writing this book. There are good emergency plans and there are bad ones. A plan may be too obtuse, complex, grandiose, idealistic; too detailed or too general; or good in theory but bad in practice. Thus there is always room to improve. The failure of a plan to solve the problem of how to respond to an emergency does not invalidate planning as such; rather, it demands a better plan and a renewed effort to improve the process of planning.
Emergency planning is a social endeavor that needs to be backed by hard scientific information; for example, on the magnitude and frequency of certain hazard impacts. By ‘social’ David Alexander means that it should involve consultation and collaboration. Often, emergency planning is as much a political process as a technical one. Public administration, hazard and risk science, journalism, technical response, welfare and other services must work in concert. The emergency plan is their script, and as such it is something with which they all need to feel comfortable and familiar. This book should convince readers
of the importance of good emergency planning, that it is intended to disseminate a methodology and also provide a justification for more and better emergency plans. Nowhere on earth is free from hazard and risk. Hence, emergency planning is not a luxury, but a necessity. In writing this new practical book, David Alexander has not abandoned the issue of principles. So the user will find these stated at intervals in the text. His intention is to provide some guiding markers along the route to explain the emergency planning process. His aim overall is to ‘demystify’ a process that, in many respects, is a form of ‘codified common sense’, but one in which the challenge is to do much more than merely thinking sensibly. The issues, and the connections between them, are complex; hence the need for a book that sets them down in print, in some kind of logical order, or what Albert Einstein described as ‘a feeling for the order lying behind the experience.’
Contents: Foreword. 1. Introduction. Scope and objectives of this book; 2. What are emergencies? 3. What is an emergency plan? 4. The emergency planning process; 5. First step: background research; 6. Second step: scenario building; 7. Third Step: from scenarios to actions; 8. A note on the structure of the plan; 9. Fourth step: using the plan; 10. Planning to maintain the continuity of normal activities; 11. Specialized emergency planning; 12. Conclusion: the future of emergency planning. Afterword. Appendix 1: Glossary of working definitions by key terms. Appendix 2: Bibliography of selected references. Index.

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Type of Study: Research | Subject: General
Received: 2016/01/18 | Accepted: 2016/05/28 | Published: 2016/07/1

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