CrisisMgmt / Discussion 4
Part I: Example of Public Health Crisis
Shortly following Hurricane Katrina, the less remembered Hurricane Rita struck Houston, Texas. Personally, I recall Rita because it caused my wedding to be delayed by two months. You might recall Rita because its poorly prepared evacuation plan resulted in absolute gridlock on the interstate highways. Motorists found themselves trapped on highways for endless hours, many running out of gas and sleeping in their cars. Fortunately, Texas got smarter from both Rita and Katrina. Years later, when Hurricane Ike ravaged Galveston, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) was ready. Public health partners applied lessons from their prior experiences with hurricanes to become better prepared and give a better direction for their community. DSHS had thousands of medical personnel and staff members working round-the-clock shifts. Patients with special needs were evacuated to special needs shelters. Toll free numbers and crisis hotlines were established to aid citizens with services ranging from finding dialysis facilities to spiritual assistance. State and federal officials worked in collaboration with DSHS to deal with aftermath issues such as lack of electricity, running water, urgent care, and other basic resources. Ultimately, the successful response to Ike stemmed from leaders across state, regional, and local public health teams working together (collaboration!) to identify and fill gaps that caused failures after Rita and Katrina.
Regarding leadership traits for crisis situations, my top three would be conscientiousness, openness, and social intelligence. In a crisis, the community needs leaders that can feel with they are feeling, communicate not just good but bad information, and organized individuals dedicated to getting the job done well.
Response: I would like to add to what you have written about the leadership traits for crisis situations. I believe that crisis leaders should have exceptional abilities and character traits. They must have attributes such as being a team builder, a learner, a source of confidence, and influencer, and an authority. Further, they must be aware of the dangerous environment and understand the value of having an integrated emergency program.
Part II: Disaster Guide
The last few years, I have lived on a small Pacific island merely six miles wide. Prior tsunamis made disaster preparedness, especially checklists, a high priority for everyone living on the island. Moreover, local television routinely reminded residents with tips and urged everyone to go online to review checklists. The JAX guide contained many of the same elements as I saw on the island, but I do not feel the same sense of urgency here in being prepared for disaster. Perhaps this is because of complacency with years of no hurricane strikes, or the fact that people feel they can just jump in their car (not an option on the island). My perception is that people here in JAX would be scrambling to respond, as people seem to me to be more reactionary than proactive regarding emergency preparation. Personally, I feel that by reading the JAX guide, and taking steps to prepare, I can be an extra source of information and resources for neighbors in the event of a disaster. For what I will do “now” – I will check my family’s supplies and be mindful of opportunities to raise awareness with neighbors and friends.
Response: The essence in keeping oneself updated with latest news and information is in the chance to be prepared to whatever imminent crisis that may come. I, too, have experienced the benefits that go along with being updated.
Part III: Question for classmates
How important are social media skills for today’s leaders in navigating a crisis?
Response: Social media is one of the sources of information in the world today. There are millions of subscribers in social media and each of them constantly checks on their account to see the latest news and updates. A lot of members of social media are also readers hence each time they discover any upcoming crisis, they post it in their account to let the other members know and until such time that the news becomes widespread.
Crisis management is extremely important, not only to contain potential hazards but also to allay the fears of the public who may not be well informed about dangers. The year I started working at the Mayo Clinic a huge crisis was discovered. An employee had been stealing and abusing the narcotic Fentanyl, which was meant for pain relief for transplant and cancer patients. The person would inject the medication from the syringe, and then replace it with saline, and with the same needle inject it into the patient. The employee unknowingly had hepatitis C, and put hundreds of patients at risk. Mayo leadership immediately sprung into action, informing every patient who had been treated in interventional radiology during the time the employee worked in that area. Thousands of patients were tested for hepatitis C, and those specimens which tested positive were then tested by PCR to determine the strain to trace it back to the employee. Two patients were definitely linked to the employee, one of whom died. The president of Mayo Clinic Florida issued a statement to the press, kept the public and our patients informed, and never tried to hide anything. I was very impressed by the swift action of leadership and the care that was put into making sure that something like this will never happen again. Employees with access to narcotics are now required to undergo even more extensive background checks every 3 years, are fingerprinted at hire, and are subject to random drug screenings.
In a crisis, I feel that the best traits to possess are integrity and self-confidence. A good leader will try to do the right thing to produce the best possible outcome, and people are more likely to follow if the leader is confident in their decisions.
I definitely learned some new and important information about emergency preparedness in Jacksonville! As a Florida transplant from a northern state, I had no idea how to prepare for a hurricane, other than the obvious first aid kit and non-perishable food and water supply. From the guide, I learned my evacuation zone (Zone 5) and the evacuation route. There are a lot of non-native Floridians in Jacksonville, and it is entirely possible that the vast majority would not know what to do in the event of a hurricane. I think it would be helpful if at the DMV this guide was given to all new Florida residents when they obtain a Florida driver's license for the firs time or register a vehicle. I think this would be a great way to ensure that new residents are well informed. I also think it would be great if at the start of each hurricane season grocery stores handed out lists of suggested emergency items to their customers to stock up on, such as batteries, bottled water, and non-perishable foods. This may help citizens to be better prepared in the event of a natural disaster. Now that I have read this guide, I will definitely be making more of an effort to prepare an emergency kit and stock up on emergency essentials.
Response: I would like to add to what you said that leaders should have the integrity and self-confidence. I believe that leaders must also possess the ability to persuade people because in doing so, it becomes easy to influence others to do what is being asked them to do. For instance, when there is a projected crisis and people are asked to get ready, an effective and persuasive leader would be able to convince the people immediately to vacate the place or get ready for the coming danger.
My question to you: Have you ever been through a hurricane or other natural disaster? If so, what did you do to prepare?
Response: Yes, I have experienced natural disasters such as hurricane. To prepare, I stored foods and bought enough stocks for the family. I also had the emergency lights, lamps, and candles ready just in case there will be no electricity. I stored water in big containers.