2.0 Introduction – What Is a Crisis??

  • Crises are defined as “situations — or the threat of impending situations — abnormally affecting lives and property which, by their nature or magnitude, require a coordinated response by a number of agencies, both governmental and private, under the direction of the appropriate officials”. These are distinct from routine operations carried out by agencies as normal day-to-day procedures (e.g. fire-fighting, police activities, normal hospital routines, ambulance routines, routine fire drills).
  • Crises are inevitable. The question is not whether an organization will experience a crisis or emergency — the questions are when, how serious, and what will be the short and long-term impacts.
  • In any crisis situation, the news media and affected interest groups tend to quickly develop symbiotic relationships with the perceived victims or those whose interests appear to have been affected. Therefore, the media and interest groups may immediately demand to know:
    • who is to blame and what consequences will they face?
    • what does the organization know, when did it find out, what were the initial reactions and what is being done now?
    • what compensation, trauma team response or other recovery activities are or will be undertaken?
  • A crisis is not the time to defend or debate the effectiveness or rationale behind policies or established administrative procedures. What matters is bringing the situation under control as quickly and safely as possible.
  • All crises are deepened if there appears to be any level of confusion or lack of control among those responding. It is perfectly acceptable for an organization to acknowledge when it does not have all the answers. It is more important to give factually correct answers than to speculate or provide incomplete information.
  • During the initial stages of a crisis, there are often compelling arguments or legal reasons for remaining silent on certain issues (e.g. Youth Criminal Justice Act, ongoing police investigations). But every effort must be made to share as much factual information as can reasonably be shared as quickly as possible.
  • While most kinds of peace-time emergencies could conceivably occur within the jurisdiction of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, those most likely to occur are: fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, epidemics, transportation accidents involving hazardous materials, air or rail crashes, toxic or flammable gas leaks, electric power blackouts, building or structural collapse, radiation fall-out, explosions, breakdown in flow of essential services/supplies, outbreaks of violence, or any combination thereof