the three phases of planning emergency management: moving towards complexity

in episode 018 of the humancurrent, preparing for complexity in emergency management, stacy interviews thomas appleyard who is an expert in emergency management. one thing that stuck out to me from his episode was the three phases he believes emergency management has gone through. the phases, or at least lessons from the phases, i think relate to other fields as well. i’m definitely thinking about my own field of urban planning, but other things like social change and communications.

the three phases, roughly summarized in quote form based on thomas’ words are:

  1. “we have a strong faith in the planning process. we think that we can guess correctly what will happen based on what we know, create a plan for that, and then implement that plan. once we do that, we’ll be all set.”

    thomas said after explaining this phase: “that was a pretty naive, but a good approach for simple and slightly complicated kinds of problems.”

  2. “we believe that it’s less about the plan and more about the process of doing the planning. during the process of planning for an emergency, what’s important is all of the connections that get made. the plan itself is secondary. once the connections are made, then during an emergency people don’t have to find each other; they already know each other and can spring into action.”

  3. “we’re just on the cusp of this phase, but we are recognizing that people make new connections during emergencies regardless of how many were made during planning processes. so instead of trying to predict which important actors need to know each other beforehand, we should plan for emergence. that means building a stronger network to deal with whatever happens. this phase is about learning to dealing with surprise, learning how to improvise well as a skill.”

the most important point to me here is that the field of emergency management is moving towards understanding how to move in complex realms, not just simple or complicated ones. this is a recurring theme for sure… (and i wonder what the field of urban planning has to learn from this or if and where it is already…)

it also sounds a lot like what adrienne and autumn are exploring in how to survive the end of the world

link to the episode transcript

words / writing / post-processing
370w / 12min / 15min