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How not to make a drama out of crisis management

Among the startling images from the Haiti earthquake earlier this year, a massive humanitarian effort was – and still is – taking place. In such a crisis, it is the cooperation of a Crisis Management Team (CMT) that brings together the necessary aid such as food, shelter and healthcare to those affected.
Maggie Burke is the director of Management Services for Africare. Burke says that “the problem with many organizations is they often think that something is not going to happen”. With over 15 years’ experience as a security executive in both the non-profit and private sectors, she has developed numerous security and risk management programs for various organizations.

The first step in establishing a CMT is to determine key people. A president or chairman must be assigned as well as a vice president. Responsibility for public relations is key: on a number of occasions, previous press coverage of a staff kidnapping, for example, has been more of a hindrance than a help to aid organisations. A legal advisor who can act as an insurance broker is also vital.

The CMT itself needs its own internal contingency in place, so a deputy to the president or chairman should be also appointed.

Crisis management is not purely about helping the vulnerable who have lost their homes, families or crops. Undoubtedly, this is hugely important. However, “caring for the caregivers”, as Burke puts it, is absolutely essential. Having plans in place in the event of a branch of an organization’s office being destroyed due to fire, are a critical part of crisis management planning. These sorts of hazards leave any organization vulnerable so it is worth investing time to list possible risk scenarios.

All organizations have a responsibility for the safety of their staff and one of the most important aspects is to ensure that there are contingencies in place in the event of a communication breakdown. Maggie Burke cited an example of trying to reach staff caught up in hostile situations such as the political unrest that occurred in Zimbabwe: “One of the first things we all lose in these situations is communications”. The role of effective ICT solutions and satellite communications cannot be underestimated.

Maggie Burke will be moderating a workshop entitled Crisis Management Teams: Developing a Crisis Management Team and Plan on Thursday July 22 at the Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF) in the Walter E. Washington Center in Washington D.C. The session will cover environmental crises such as earthquakes and situational crises including war and civil unrest. She will be joined by representatives from both public and private sectors, from such fields as travel and logistics, law and training and recruitment.

Now in its fifth year, this event is a worthwhile opportunity for the aid, relief and development sector to network, build partnerships and address global humanitarian and development challenges, as well as showcasing goods and services to those who are responsible for delivery.

Registration is free to non-commercial organizations.

Aid & International Development Forum 2010 partners include InterAction, IPOA, World Bank Publications and RedR UK.

More information, including the workshop agenda, speaker and exhibitor lists and registration details can be found at

Facts & Figures
There will be over 1600 visitors and in the region of 120 exhibitors, 100 of which will be businesses, 20 of which will be NGOs, UN and Government stands
For lists of speakers, exhibitors and the workshop agenda, please use the following links:


Workshop Agenda:


The Aid & International Development Forum (previously International Aid & Trade) has been the world's leading forum for humanitarian relief professionals to cement relationships, build partnerships, gain understanding and share experiences. Having been acquired by Henley Media Group in 2005, International Aid & Trade ran in Geneva in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2009 the event moved to Washington D.C., in partnership with InterAction, the largest coalition of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF)
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

Diva Rodriguez, Content Manager. Email:
Telephone +44 (0) 20 7871 0188

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