Preparing for Preparedness - Shaping Crisis Planning Processes in Local Authorities

University dissertation from Department of Fire Safety Engineering and Systems Safety, Lund University

Abstract: In the developed countries the public expect society to be prepared for, and step in, if something out of the ordinary happens. This public pressure appears to have increased the demand for crisis preparedness planning. In crisis management the local authority serves as the first line of defence and will more or less always be involved in responding to crises. It is therefore important to study how they should work with preparedness planning. The overall aim of the research on which the present thesis is based has been to study how local authorities should shape their preparedness planning processes in order to enhance their ability to respond to crises. Organisations are different; they have dissimilar prerequisites and are vulnerable to different hazards. Preparedness planning must always be adapted to the specific conditions and there is thus no detailed model that fits all organisations. In this thesis I have addressed two research questions concerning preparedness planning. The first question addressed the factors preparedness planners and researchers perceived as vital to consider when shaping the process of preparedness planning. The second research question dealt with the implications crisis management has on the preparedness planning process. The answers to both research questions can be summarised as follows. While acknowledging that there is no “model planning” that will serve every local authority effectively, there were four implications that were perceived as vital. The first implication is that there are several aims of preparedness planning, and those aims might be in conflict with each other. The second implication, at the operational level to shape a preparedness planning process, is that there is a need to create a continuous process. Furthermore, I have found three different perspectives relevant for shaping this process. These are to address the organisation’s internal vulnerabilities, to deal with aspects of learning and to consider who should learn what and how. The third implication is that it will almost never be possible to completely “stick to the plan”. There will always be a need for improvisation. It is thus wise to plan for improvisation. The fourth and final implication is that one needs to be cautious when evaluating a plan in hindsight.