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Disaster management

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Introduction All disaster managers must make decisions. Their decision involves a comparison between several alternatives and an evaluation of the outcome. The quality of the decisions managers make is the true measure of their performance. Each operational decision influences future actions, which in turn, require further decisions. Errors in decision-making, therefore, tend to be cumulative. Decision-making is the major responsibility of a disaster manager, regardless of his or her functional area or level in the organization. Some of these decisions may have a strong impact on the organization, while others will be important, but less crucial. The important point, however, is that all decisions will have some sort of effect. Variables in Decision-making In some cases, decisions are made where there are few alternatives and all the parameters of the decision can be clearly identified. However, many decisions require that a choice be made between different courses of action that may be affected by variables or events beyond a manager's control. For example, the field director of a refugee relief operation knows that the accuracy of new arrival forecasts will depend in large measure, upon political events in another country. Similarly, a supply officer of a relief agency is faced with the problem of how much and what types of supplies should be ordered in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake, without knowing the full extent of the disaster. ...read more.


Maximize the results that are the minimum possible under the circumstances; d) Minimize the maximum possible results; or e) Avoid or delay the decision. Types of Decisions There are three types of decisions in disaster management: 1) routine; 2) non-routine; and 3) technically guided. 1) Routine (or programmed) � If a problem or situation occurs often, a routine procedure usually is developed for solving it. Thus, decisions are routine if they are repetitive and a specific procedure has been developed for handling them. Examples would be purchasing relief supplies, handling personnel matters, and dealing with problems that were anticipated. Routine decisions normally are guided by policies, guidelines, or procedures. 2) Non-Routine (non-programmed) � When problems are broad, novel, and unanticipated, they require decisions that have not been covered in the planning by the organization. That is, they have not been routine. Consequently, there is no established procedure for handling the problem. 3) Technically-guided � In many cases, determination of which course of action to choose is guided by technical factors beyond the control of the manager. For example, flood victims often demand that relief agencies provide "flood-proof" houses. Unfortunately, flooding is a site problem, not a structural one. Therefore, a decision not to provide housing assistance on the same site would be guided by technical, not humanitarian considerations. ...read more.


In these organizations, both routine and non-routine decisions are made at all levels. Disasters demand that non-routine decisions be made at all levels, especially at field-level management. Field-level managers most often deal with non-routine decisions in emergencies. Thus, to improve the performance of relief operations, it is necessary to improve the non-routine decision-making capabilities of field-level managers. Two ways to improve decision-making under these circumstances are to: 1) Structure the decision-making process; 2) Provide a policy framework against which to measure choices. Steps in Decision-making All decisions require deliberate analysis. In order to make decisions under non-routine, emergency circumstances, the following steps should be taken: Step 1. Define the problem and the decision to be made. Clarify the problem and try to eliminate irrelevant or unnecessary issues. Step 2. Gather and organize all the information about the problem. Put all the information in a logical form and sequence. Step 3. Extract the relevant information. Step 4. Evaluate the information. Assess the quality and accuracy of the information and estimate the unknowns and variables that may influence the outcome of the decision. Step 5. Identify alternatives. Determine the alternatives and identify as many of the pros and cons and the possible outcomes of each. Step 6. Make the decision. Pick the best (most positive) alternative. Once a decision has been made, it should be adhered to. Hesitation or wavering fosters uncertainty and lack of confidence in the decision-maker, and can reduce the effectiveness of the decision. ...read more.

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