Crisis Management

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Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

Volume 17 Number 1 March 2009

Enhancing Organizational Resilience Through Emergency Planning: Learnings from Cross-Sectoral Lessons Margaret T. Crichton*, Cameron G. Ramsay** and Terence Kelly*** *People Factor Consultants Ltd, 41 Regent Quay, Aberdeen AB11 5BE, UK. E-mail: margaret@peoplefactor.co.uk **Cogna Limited, Aberdeen, UK ***UKAEA, The Manor Court, Chilton, Oxfordshire, OX11 ORN

After every emergency exercise or actual incident, reports are circulated that usually identify lessons that have been learned from the event. This paper identifies recurring themes from the lessons learned that can be widely applied across sectors. Typically, lessons are expressed in a form that is specific to the actual event that has transpired, the sector in which it has occurred, and the aims of the reporting organization. Reports relating to seven incidents that have occurred in the United Kingdom and internationally, from a range of sectors and with varying parameters, have been reviewed. It is concluded that organizations can become wiser by looking at incidents outside their own sector and by using these recurring themes to explore the resilience of their emergency plans. Recommendations are also made for best practices to improve the learning of lessons within organizations.

1. Introduction

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ollowing every accident or incident, and usually every emergency exercise, reports are prepared that typically culminate in a series of ‘lessons learned’. Reports are prepared by the organizations involved in the event, and are often circulated internally and to other related organizations. The aim is to learn from the event that has occurred and to avoid this event occurring again. Occasionally, the lessons identified are adopted across sectors. For example, lessons learned from such high-profile accidents such as Bhopal (1984: chemical), Chernobyl (1986: nuclear) and Challenger (1986: space) have had widespread influence outside of their sector. More frequently, lessons tend to be overlooked or considered not to be relevant or appropriate

outside of the sector in which the event occurred. A challenge appears to be a lack of recognition of the factors within the event, which are not sector-specific but where there are indeed recurring themes, which apply across sectors. Further analyses of lessons from actual events are required to identify the key factors that underpin the lessons that can be learned by organizations. The aim of this paper is to present the results of a project, undertaken on behalf of the UK nuclear industry, to review a variety of incident reports presenting lessons learned from selected events, in the United Kingdom and internationally, and to identify the recurring themes that emerge. Recurring themes can then be used by the UK nuclear industry to assess, analyse and document lessons learned. More widely, organizations in other sectors can learn from past

& 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Enhancing Organizational Resilience Through Emergency Planning failures to help to avoid failures in the future, both by looking outside their sector for lessons in effective emergency management and by addressing these recurring themes.

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2. The role of lessons in improving resilience in organizations High Reliability Organisation (HRO) is the term used to describe those organizations, such as nuclear installations, airlines and aerospace, characterized by factors such as preoccupation with failure, reluctance to simplify interpretations, sensitivity to operations, commitment to resilience, and deference to expertise (Reason, 1997; Weick & Sutcliffe, 2001). Complex systems, such as major hazard installations or operations, always retain the capacity to produce novel or surprising events, and reliability or redundancy among safety critical elements is not sufficient to achieve safety; what is required also is ‘some flexibility and responsiveness to pick up things...
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