EMII Research Symposium: Critical Thinkers in Emergency Management Research: An International Perspective

Friday the 1st February 2019 marked the first birthday of the DCU Business School based Emergency Management Institute Ireland (EMII). A research symposium entitled “Critical Thinkers in Emergency Management Research: An International Perspective” was organised in order to celebrate this significant milestone. The symposium brought together influential academics from the arena of disaster and emergency management and facilitated a conversation between those who work, for the most part, within a university environment and those at the coal face of the demanding and diverse world of emergency management.

The sell-out crowd were welcomed by the Chair of the EMII, ACFO Dennis Keeley.  ACFO Keeley thanked those present for the support and commitment they had shown to the work of the EMII during its first year.  In a special way, he acknowledged the contribution of the first two recipients of EMII Fellowships, Mr Sean Hogan and Mr Pat O’Riordan, both of whom have been highly influential in shaping emergency management policy and practice across the nation. 

Professor Caroline McMullan opened the event by highlighting the importance of research within this emerging academic discipline. In particular, she reminded the large audience, many of whom were graduates from the DCU MSc in Emergency Management, of the need to observe and evaluate the different approaches and methods which can underpin all phases of emergency management, and the importance of reflection and effective debrief post-disaster. Finally, before providing an introduction to the speakers and their research, Professor McMullan quoted Rotanz (2007) who said: “research can help us define, recognise, and understand the multitude of issues we face in the field of emergency management”.

In her introduction to Dr Lucy Easthope, Caroline reflected on the fact that it takes a special type of person to use her academic research and compassion in the fight for those most impacted by disasters such as Hillsborough and Grenfell. Lucy’s presentation drew on her recent book, “The Recovery Myth”. After an impactful presentation, the audience was left with three key messages: listen to and focus on people when planning for and responding to disasters; engage in compound planning in order to really test capability and capacity – pandemic plus “beast from the east”, new systems rollout plus no deal Brexit; and, finally, she reminded everyone not to be afraid to speak out no matter what pressure is brought to bear.

The second speaker, Professor Dominic Elliott presented an overview of his research into the barriers and facilitators of effective Business Continuity Management (BCM). His research pointed to the need to avoid measuring success in BCM by the number of plans written and instead to focus on cutting to the core of the organisation’s values, sharing good practice, and embedding BCM from the shop floor to the boardroom.  Overall, he encouraged delegates to avoid negativity: “negativity is the main block to our glorious future”.

The final speaker, Professor Denis Fischbacher-Smith, warned those present to remember the risk posed by individuals within our organisations.  He suggested that convincing managers that the threat from within is real and that something which hasn’t happened, could happen, can be the biggest issue or challenge faced.  The delegates were left with six key takeaways:  identify critical assets in the organisation; identify the threat posed (based on the intent and capability of those who could carry out the threat); assess the likelihood of that happening in your organisation; assess the impact on your business; review the adequacy of existing countermeasures; and finally, propose new countermeasures to reduce the risk.

Following the symposium, delegates attended a gala dinner in the 1838 Club where Mr Sean Hogan and Mr Pat O’Riordan were made Fellows of the EMII. Their citations were read by the EMII Chairperson, and the awards were presented by Professor McMullan.