Inderscience Publishers

A plan for (certain) failure: Possibilities for and challenges of more realistic emergency plans

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Calls for more robust societal emergency management capacities have grown shriller as the range of societal vulnerabilities widens. The development of workable plans is recognised as one means to increase capacity. However, scepticism persists that plans serve any significant function in guiding organisational emergency management. Plans nevertheless remain a de facto requirement for most organisations. Plans serve to reassure the organisations themselves, policy makers and the public that they are capable of managing emergencies. A more 'realistic' approach to plan development should be considered, which accounts for both the unpredictable nature of critical incidents and the possibility that organisational incapability makes it hard to manage. The authors argue that plans might serve to raise organisational and interorganisational self-awareness concerning potential vulnerabilities. If nothing else, plans serve a palliative function and, for that reason, are likely 'here to stay'. As long as plans require significant resources to be developed and maintained, might they not be as relevant as possible to those organisations they are intended to guide? Various ways forward in the development of more 'realistic' plans which provide guidance in the face of critical incidents, but even partial if not complete organisational failure are suggested.

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