Government officials in particular take the heat in the media and in post

Government officials in particular take the heat in

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Government officials in particular take the heat in the media and in post-emergency inquiries: for neglecting to take proper preventive measures, for not warning residents and businesses on time, for being unprepared to handle mass evacuations, or for wittingly or unwittingly compromising public safety in the pursuit of other ends. Third, there is the balance between prevention and resilience . Many of the emerging threats are difficult or impossible to prevent: they come from abroad, they are inherent in the socio- economic climate, they are generated by new complex technologies. They stem from the very mechanisms that make modern society function. This means that successful crisis management policies need to strike a proper balance between investments in prevention, and building up capacities to respond and recover effectively in case the unthinkable happens nevertheless. 9
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Robustness in response capacity and in physical and political recovery ability is as important as the more traditional focus on prevention. The challenge is not to become a victim of one´s own past successes. The Union should acknowledge new threats and risks and invest equitably in prevention and in crisis preparedness in the face of multiple contingencies (planning, response infrastructures, personnel training, interorganizational exercises). In the area of crisis response, such capacity-building should proceed with a view to constructing not just smart structures and resource reservoirs but robust professional communities of practice that are capable of performing the critical functions of effective and legitimate crisis management: 1. Sense making : diagnosing confusing, contested and often fast-moving situations correctly, a necessary condition for effectively meeting the other challenges. 2. Steering and synthesizing : making strategic policy judgments under conditions of time pressure, uncertainty and collective stress and forging effective communication and collaboration among pre-existing and ad-hoc networks of public, private and sometimes international actors. 3. Meaning making : providing persuasive public accounts of what is happening, why it is happening, what can be done about it, how and by whom; in other words, ‘teaching reality’ aimed at managing both the general public’s and key stakeholders’ emotions, expectations, behavioural inclinations, as well as to restore their crisis-eroded trust in public institutions and office-holders. 4. Adapting: managing the process of post-crisis recovery as well as the expert, media, legislative and judicial inquiry and debate that tend to follow crises. Managerially, this has to be done in such a way that fair and sustainable levels of services are provided to those eligible even while the ad-hoc crisis response structures are wound down. Strategically, this involves a process of clarifying causes and responsibilities, destructive blame games are avoided and the actors and communities involved in the crisis engage in dedicated self-scrutiny and adaptive change.
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