CCPR/PERI Study Finds Many Organizations Ill-Prepared for a Crisis

New York University’s Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response (CCPR) and The Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI), a nonprofit research institute focused on risk management training and education, have completed a study on the level of crisis readiness among government, business, and nonprofit organizations across the United States. According to the study’s resulting report, a large number of organizations lack effective preparedness programs to respond to and recover from a crisis, despite estimates that crises to come may be more frequent and complex.

In the report, Predicting Organizational Crisis Readiness: Perspectives and Practices toward a Pathway to Preparedness, author Paul C. Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor for Public Service at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the principal investigator of The Project on Organizational and Community Preparedness at CCPR, points to a broadly held belief that there is direct relationship between population and hazards, such that as population increases, the number of hazards proportionately increases, too.

“Consequently, the crises ahead are increasing both in complexity and frequency; yet, levels of crises readiness among organizations remains low and poorly understood,” writes Light, who also is the author of a new book on government reform entitled A Government Ill Executed. In the CCPR/PERI report, he examines characteristics that better position organizations and government to recover after a crisis, identifying those that serve as significant predictors of crisis readiness. He also presents recommendations for enhancing organizational preparedness. The report includes the results of a survey of opinion leaders from government and for-profit and non-profit sectors, comparing crisis characteristics of organizations. Among the key recommendations are:

Priorities: Crisis readiness should be given the same organizational priority as other mission-centered activities, such as fund-raising and sales, marketing, branding, and measurement.

Budgeting: Crisis readiness should be given an identifiable line in the organizational budget and it should not be subsumed in another budget.

Accountability: Crisis readiness should be given clear grants of authority from the leadership and board.

Stafford Act Reform: Raise the limits of support and decrease the barriers for application for small businesses in the aftermath of a disaster.

Regulation: Set voluntary standards for crisis readiness through statutes and award programs.

According to John R. Harrald, Ph.D., of the Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management at George Washington University, the report makes a conceptual and empirical case for preparedness. “It draws on what we know about crisis management, high reliability and high performance organizations, and organizational resilience to distill the key characteristics of readiness,” Harrald said. “Unfortunately, in spite of the evidence strategically linking preparedness with high performance, empirical studies demonstrate that organizations still far fall short and are not ready for the crises they may face.”

PERI Executive Director Gerald Hoetmer, reflecting on the report in the context of America’s ongoing struggles with disaster preparedness and response, added, “The Katrina disaster and dysfunctional response highlighted deficiencies in crisis readiness at all levels. This report not only demonstrates the pervasiveness of the problem but provides crucial information to help organizations to improve their crisis readiness.”

Predicting Organizational Crisis Readiness: Perspectives and Practices toward a Pathway to Preparedness is available for download at no charge at www.nyu.edu/ccpr and from the Resource Library on the PERI Web site at www.riskinstitute.org. In addition to PERI and CCPR, the report was supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Morgan Stanley, and the Prudential Corporation.

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