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Article

In a globalized world, national-level policymakers make decisions, often during times of crisis and uncertainty, which have implications for neighboring territories. Britain is an example of a nation state that has had to accommodate such a multi-level context in the management of crises. What is clear is that the processes of crisis management rely heavily on the effectiveness and strength of policy relationships at multiple levels of governance. Managing and coordinating crises in these contexts represents a challenge for national crisis managers as these complex governance landscapes produce uncertainties and can reveal ambiguities when it comes to identifying “who” is the dominant crisis manager. For example, the challenges of global health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, highlight how modern governance arrangements breed vulnerabilities for states due to the interconnection of infrastructures and systems. The lack of clarity with regards to who is accountable for the performance of crisis management approaches within complex government environments open up windows of opportunity for blame and ideological games to take effect. Crisis management research highlights that the effectiveness of transnational crisis management depends on policy relationships within and between networks, including the extent to which national technocratic actors feature in the political decisions that affect crisis governance arrangements. Policy relationships themselves are also shaped by the contexts and dynamics of regional and territorial governance, Europeanization processes, and the internationalization of crisis management—all of which produce their own political tensions for the workings and autonomy of national crisis managers. Understanding such complexities is key for researching British crisis management processes.

Article

Preparedness involves initiatives designed to mitigate or reduce the impact of major risks and disasters and thus create resilience. It requires foresight and planning. One can distinguish between long-term and short-term preparedness activities. The former can be divided into structural, semi-structural, nonstructural, and environmental categories. Structural preparedness involves building defenses and strengthening buildings and infrastructure against the physical impact of disasters. Although widely used, it is expensive and usually does not provide complete protection against the effects of disaster. Semi-structural measures include flood barriers that can be dismantled and the designation of areas for the storage of floodwater. Nonstructural measures comprise land-use planning (including interdiction on settlement and other uses in areas of high hazard), insurance, and emergency planning. The last of these is designed to ensure that resource usage in crisis situations is optimized in favor of responding effectively to the impact. Nature-based or ecological measures involve enhancing the power of natural systems to amortize the impact of disaster. Emergency preparedness configures the “architecture” of response, including command centers, control systems, hazard monitoring networks, systems designed to warn the public, and plans to evacuate people. In parallel to emergency planning, business continuity management is a form of preparedness that is designed to ensure the continued functionality of organizations. It may include measures to protect their reputation among clients, customers, and suppliers, and their market position or stock market quotation. Preparedness for pandemics can be considered as a special case, in which medical and epidemiological preparations are accompanied by preparedness measures to deal with the profound socioeconomic changes that a pandemic brings to society. Preparedness is also important during the phase of recovery from disaster. This period involves a “window of opportunity” in which official and public sensitivity to the problem can be used to improve safety by reconstructing to higher standards than existed before the disaster and incorporating new safety measures. In terms of resilience, this is a “bounce-forward” strategy, sometimes known as “build back better,” rather than a “bounce-back” one that would risk restoring preexisting vulnerabilities. Disaster risk is particularly dynamic in the modern world, thanks to major changes in the magnitude and frequency of environmental hazards, large increases in the vulnerability of people and assets, and anthropogenic degradation of natural environments. Preparedness is thus a major imperative that is greatly needed if very large losses are to be avoided.

Article

Elyse Zavar and Brendan Lavy

Mitigation activities seek to lessen the impact of a hazard on a community, or eliminate the hazard altogether. Mitigation activities, techniques, and the policies that govern them have evolved over time as human populations learned from and anticipated future crises. Mitigation strategies in the early 1900s relied heavily on structural mitigation in the form of large public works projects, such as dams and sea walls, to control environmental systems and limit human exposure to environmental extremes. Yet these practices encouraged development in high-risk hazard-prone areas. Beginning in the 1950s and peaking in the 1990s, emphasis shifted to the use of non-structural mitigation techniques, including land use regulations and hazard insurance, to steer development away from high-risk landscapes. Policies enacted during this time period and large-scale disasters of the 21st century provide important lessons for mitigation and building resilience to future events. Studies of hurricane damage in the United States led to improved building codes, and underscore the importance of nature-based mitigation strategies. Nature-based solutions, such as ecological engineering, ecological restoration as well as blue and green infrastructure development, harness the environment’s own defenses to protect human populations. For example, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake, research showed that strategically placed vegetation could slow and dissipate tsunami waves. The European Commission has also encouraged protecting, restoring, and enhancing environmental features to mitigate against hazards. Moreover, the emergence of the climate change crisis and its ongoing impacts have led environmental scientists, ecologists, and disaster scientists to associate mitigation with emerging concepts such as sustainability, adaptation, and resilience. This association has resulted in the incorporation of mitigation efforts in a variety of planning tools, including sustainability and climate adaptation plans. This shift has produced mitigation strategies that prioritize equity and justice in climate hazard mitigation policy and planning. The future of mitigation will rely on collaboration and cooperation across many allied fields to build sustainable and resilient communities that can adapt and respond to future crises.

Article

Matthew Seeger

Crisis communication may be understood as the process of creating and exchanging messages between interdependent stakeholders in conditions of high uncertainty, threats to high-priority goals, and the need for immediate response created by a crisis. This process occurs through established channels and networks of communication, using a variety of message forms. Feedback, message consistency, message tailoring, message reach, transparency and openness, immediacy, credibility, and coordination with key groups, among other factors, are related to effectiveness. Communication within the context of crisis is necessary for coordination, sense-making, effective response, recovery, renewal, learning, and the development of resilience. Processes of communication generally follow the developmental nature of crises from pre-crisis conditions where risks develop and incubate to post-crisis conditions where social and organizational structures, processes, and norms are reconstructed. Crisis communication is closely related to risk communication that concerns the ongoing process of exchanging messages to monitor, understand, and manage risks. Effective communication is essential to the successful management of crises, and communication functions should be included in crisis and risk policy formation and planning as well as response and recovery. Communication may also promote the development of resilience and contribute to system renewal.

Article

David Alexander

Disaster risk reduction (DRR, or disaster reduction) is an umbrella term for processes of preparing for, responding to, recovering from, and managing the risk of disasters. It refers primarily to the acts of setting the policy and strategic agendas for these tasks. It reflects a long-standing need to reorientate priorities from merely responding to disasters once they have struck to reducing or avoiding their impacts. To be achieved, DRR requires a combination of physical and social measures, with full participation of affected populations and other stakeholders. Academically, disasters have been studied systematically for more than 100 years. During this period, the emphasis has changed from analyzing natural hazards as the primary drivers of disaster to a more pluralistic approach in which vulnerability and exposure to hazards and threats are viewed as playing vitally important roles. Disasters can have natural, technological, social, or intentional (i.e., terrorism-related) causes, but they are increasingly composite events that involve combinations of factors. Hence there is now much emphasis on “natech” events, in which natural hazards affect technological systems, and cascading disasters, in which escalation points caused by interacting sources of vulnerability may have the power to make the secondary effects more important than the primary trigger. Root causes and contexts have assumed a greater salience in the explanation of disaster, which tends to involve complex interactions among social, economic, political, and physical factors. Resilience has come to the fore as a positive concept for organizing processes of DRR. It is usually defined as a mixture of adaptation to hazards and threats and the ability to resist or overcome the negative effects of disaster. DRR concepts and strategies have been mainstreamed in modern society by international action under the auspices of the United Nations and the Sendai Framework for DRR, 2015–2030. The challenges of applying UN frameworks include uncertainty about whether the underlying concepts are durable, whether they can be applied rigorously, whether they have enough support among policy and decisionmakers, and whether they can acquire a sound practical basis. The future of DRR depends on humanity’s ability to implement solutions to conflict, migration, and environmental change, not merely the impact of disasters per se. In an era in which population is rising, wealth disparities and human mobility are increasing, and environmental change has begun to lead to major upheavals, DRR has gone from being a rather esoteric, specialized field to one that is central to the future of human existence.

Article

Disasters and the theory of emergency management are vibrant subjects for scholars. Researchers have focused on a variety of topics, including the definition of disasters, human behavior in extreme events, the nature of emergency management, ways to make the profession more effective, the pros and cons of various paradigms, and new areas of research. In studying these subjects, scholars have employed a variety of methods, including observation, field research, and comparison, among others. Findings from research reveals that humans are responsible for disasters and that vulnerability must be reduced. Studies reveal that antisocial behavior is less likely to occur than more common activities to support victims of disasters. The principles of emergency management have been elaborated, and scholars have argued that the phases of disasters are more complex that initially meets they eye. Research also reveals that bureaucratic approaches to emergency management are based on false assumptions and are too rigid. Scholarship also explores how to make emergency management functions more effective, and a number of articles have been written to explore paradigms to guide research and practice. Theoretical work on disasters and emergency management has examined planning, improvisation, and spontaneous planning. Research has also explored humanitarian logistics, the use of social media, the scholarship of teaching and learning, cultural competency and the culture of preparedness. Going forward, more research is needed on the complexity of disasters and the use or impact of technology in emergency management. A greater understanding of public health emergencies is warranted due to the challenges of Covid-19.

Article

Climate change is increasingly being framed as a “climate crisis.” Such a crisis could be viewed both to unfold in the climate system, as well as to be induced by it in diverse areas of society. Following from current understandings of modern crises, it is clear that climate change indeed can be defined as a “crisis.” As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5oC special report elaborates, the repercussions of a warming planet include increased food insecurity, increased frequency and intensity of severe droughts, extreme heat waves, the loss of coral reef ecosystems and associated marine species, and more. It is also important to note that a range of possible climate-induced crises (through, e.g., possible increased food insecurity and weather extremes) will not be distributed evenly, but will instead disproportionally affect already vulnerable social groups, communities, and countries in detrimental ways. The multifaceted dimensions of climate change allow for multiple interpretations and framings of “climate crisis,” thereby forcing us to acknowledge the deeply contextual nature of what is understood as a “crisis.” Climate change and its associated crises display a number of challenging properties that stem from its connections to basically all sectors in society, its propensity to induce and in itself embed nonlinear changes such as “tipping points” and cascading shocks, and its unique and challenging long-term temporal dimensions. The latter pose particularly difficult decision-making and institutional challenges because initial conditions (in this case, carbon dioxide emissions) do not result in immediate or proportional responses (say, global temperature anomalies), but instead play out through feedbacks among the climate system, oceans, the cryosphere, and changes in forest biomes, with some considerable delays in time. Additional challenges emerge from the fact that early warnings of pending so-called “catastrophic shifts” face numerous obstacles, and that early responses are undermined by a lack of knowledge, complex causality, and severe coordination challenges.