When disasters occur, news headlines, dramatic photographs, and video tell us about lives lost, destruction, and hardship. Through conceptual frameworks and examples from Chinese, US, and other international emergencies, this course deals with the challenges leaders and society as a whole face in preparing for major crises and responding and providing relief for survivors. The course views these issues from the perspectives of emergency responders, humanitarian organizations, and political leaders. Getting truly ready for emergencies is extremely difficult because responders must function in two modes – preparing both for what we will term “routine emergencies” and for the rarer but more difficult true “crises.” In a crisis, taking action is urgent, but the tactics and methods that work in confronting everyday emergencies may be inadequate – or even counterproductive. Response leaders confronting crises, especially large-scale disasters, therefore must operate in a different mode than that appropriate for routine emergencies. They must make decisions with participation of a wider range of stakeholders, developing new solutions by combining elements of several kinds of routine response or by innovating in their strategies and tactics. When the immediate danger is over, moreover, society faces many challenges in providing critical relief services, such as food, shelter, and medical care. Then, amidst the destruction and hardship of a major disaster, the much longer and quite difficult process of recovery must begin.
Faculty: Arnold M. Howitt, Johnson and Johnson Visiting Chair in Leadership, Schwarzman College; Co-Director of the Program on Crisis Leadership and Senior Adviser of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University