Expectations are high that organizations will not only take reasonable measure to prevent catastrophic incidents, but will also be prepared to respond to them effectively—including attending to their emotional impacts on people. Thus, disaster planning must not only deal with physical issues but also include structured protocols for addressing the “people side” of crisis events. Attention to the people side will accelerate employees' return to pre-incident productivity. It can also have profound long-term positive impact on affected organizations and their constituencies in terms of reputation, resumption of normal activity, and restoration of morale and shareholder value.

Disaster plans should include the establishment of Humanitarian Response Teams, as distinct units within organizational crisis response structures, to focus specifically on the people-side impacts. Their duties might include such issues as, ongoing communications to and from impacted constituents, palliative care to those in need, assistance for families of seriously or fatally injured persons, support for employees involved in recovery and business continuity efforts, facilitating return to work, etc.

The presentation will provide an introduction to the human-side of crisis management, sketching the structural essentials for Humanitarian Response Teams, such as, who should comprise them and how they should be trained, and their operational parameters in actual disaster-response situations. In connection with the latter, a brief overview of the evolving controversy over the standard practice of “debriefing,” and the alternative resiliency-based model of post-crisis support, will be presented. Attendees will leave the session equipped to critique their own disaster planning for its attention to the essentials of humanitarian response.

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