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CCPR and PERI Study Finds Many U.S. Government, Business, and Nonprofit Organizations Ill-Prepared for a Crisis

August 19, 2008
n-521, 2007-08

Report Proposes New Approaches to Improve Crises Readiness

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, calls for Continued Progress in Nation’s Preparedness Efforts

New York University’s Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response (CCPR) and The Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI), a nonprofit research institute focused on risk management training and education, have completed a study on the level of crisis readiness among government, business, and nonprofit organizations across the U.S. The findings reveal a large number of organizations lack effective preparedness programs to respond to and recover from a crisis, despite estimates that crises to come may be more frequent and complex.

In the report, Predicting Organizational Crisis Readiness: Perspectives and Practices toward a Pathway to Preparedness, author Paul C. Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor for Public Service at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the principal investigator of The Project on Organizational and Community Preparedness at CCPR, points to a broadly held belief that there is direct relationship between population and hazards, such that as population increases, the number of hazards proportionately increases, too.

“Consequently,” writes Dr. Light, “the crises ahead are increasing both in complexity and frequency; yet, levels of crises readiness among organizations remains low and poorly understood.”

In the report, Dr. Light, who is the author of a just-published book on government reform entitled A Government Ill Executed (Harvard University Press), examines characteristics that better position organizations and government to recover after a crisis, identifying those that serve as significant predictors of crisis readiness. He also presents recommendations for enhancing organizational preparedness. The report includes the results of a survey of opinion leaders from government, for-profit, and non-profit sectors, comparing crisis characteristics of organizations.

Among the key recommendations are:

  • Priorities: Crisis readiness should be given the same organizational priority as other mission-centered activities, such as fund-raising and sales, marketing, branding, and measurement.
  • Budgeting: Crisis readiness should be given an identifiable line in the organizational budget and it should not be subsumed in another budget.
  • Accountability: Crisis readiness should be given clear grants of authority from the leadership and board.
  • Stafford Act Reform: Raise the limits of support and decrease the barriers for application for small businesses in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • Regulation: Set voluntary standards for crisis readiness through statues and award programs.

“I commend NYU and Dr. Paul Light for recognizing the need to research ways to improve our nation’s disaster preparedness and crisis recovery abilities,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “This report demonstrates that disaster preparedness is not just a role for the federal government. This is an area in which the private and public sectors must become more engaged, so that we can work together to be as resilient as possible to any kind of catastrophe.”

John R. Harrald, Ph.D. of the Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management at George Washington University recognized the important contribution of Dr. Light’s work to the discourse on homeland security and disaster preparedness. “The report makes the conceptual and empirical case for preparedness. It draws on what we know about crisis management, high reliability and high performance organizations, and organizational resilience to distill the key characteristics of readiness. Unfortunately, in spite of the evidence strategically linking preparedness with high performance, empirical studies demonstrate that organizations still far fall short and are not ready for the crises they may face.”

Brad Penuel, CCPR’s director, echoed Dr. Harrald’s sentiments emphasizing the importance of academic research. “The problems facing the public and private sectors to respond to and prepare for disasters are complex and constantly evolving. To find solutions to these important problems and ensure the effects of disasters are mitigated for in the most effective manners, the public and private sectors must continue to partner with academia to understand the best ways to create a prepared society. Professor Light’s work and its support from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Prudential, Morgan Stanley, and PERI exemplify this type of collaboration.”

Gerald Hoetmer, executive director of PERI, reflected on the report in the context of America’s ongoing struggles with disaster preparedness and response. “The Katrina disaster and dysfunctional response highlighted deficiencies in crisis readiness at all levels. This report not only demonstrates the pervasiveness of the problem but provides crucial information to help organizations to improve their crisis readiness.”

Predicting Organizational Crisis Readiness: Perspectives and Practices toward a Pathway to Preparedness is available for download at no charge at www.nyu.edu/ccpr. and from the Resource Library on the PERI Website at www.riskinstitute.org. In addition to PERI and CCPR, the report was supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Morgan Stanley, and the Prudential Corporation.


About the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response: New York University’s Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response (CCPR) was founded in 2002 as a university-wide, cross-disciplinary center to improve preparedness and response capabilities to catastrophic events. More information on the CCPR can be found at www.nyu.edu/ccpr.

About the Public Entity Risk Institute: The Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) is a nonprofit research institute that develops risk management education and training resources for local governments, school districts, small businesses, nonprofits and others. PERI’s Website serves as a clearinghouse and library with information on a wide range of topics including disaster preparedness, response, and recovery; public health and safety; land use and planning; environmental liability; risk financing and insurance; technology risks; and workers’ compensation. PERI also operates a national performance measurement and benchmarking database known as the PERI Data Exchange, which allows local governments to compare liability and workers’ compensation data with their peers and identify strategies to reduce losses and control costs. To learn more about publications and services available from PERI, go to www.riskinstitute.org.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Research, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: Robert Polner | (212) 998-2337


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