Emergency Management – by chapter and verse

There is certainly an open discussion of where should the field of Emergency Management reside, academically: Is it Art? Is it Science? Is it something else?

Science – threat/hazard calculations, include the one that has “Outrage” as a multiplier (Peter Sandman article – https://www.psandman.com/articles/zurich.pdf)

Art – Stand for nothing, you will fall for everything (Music) (Katy Perry! quote)

We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.

Pablo Picasso, 1923

Colleges and Universities who have majors in Emergency Management have it pretty much event split between these three choices. In Emergency Management we have a lot of our own axioms, quotes, fun sayings to live by, etc. – and we ‘steal’ from the best of other fields as well, too. Here are some of the more artful ones.

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.

Bette Davis’ character Margo Channing, in “All About Eve”

Active Assailant mantras


ABC: Avoid, Barricade, Confront

Avoid, Deny, Defend

One Bite at a Time

Is how they say you should endeavor to eat an elephant.

The Devil is in the Details

Failure is not an option



Lots of stuff to fear. But fear with planning can lead to safety. Fear without planning can lead to panic.

(c) Barton Dunant – All Rights Reserved.

Measure Twice, Cut Once


Plans themselves are quickly outdated, but the planning process is timeless.

Eisenhower quote, but with some changes…

Help for the Helpers

Fred Rodgers quote “Look for the helpers” – some criticize this, but we disagree.

Every Mistake is an opportunity to learn something new

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” – Henry Ford

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” – Albert Einstein

All Disasters Start and End Locally


Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste (Winston Churchill)

Not to mean there really are good disasters, don’t get hung up on that. Think more like John Lewis and “Good Trouble”. This is about mitigation.

Plan for the worst (see also, “Hope is not a Plan”)

Some will say, “and Hope for the Best”. We disagree. Hope is not a four-letter word in our lexicon. Work is. We say “Plan for the Worst, Work Towards the Best.” It’s also a lot like our democracy – towards a more perfect union, a never ending journey.

Plan your Work, Work your Plan

Similar to the one above, and other planning axioms.

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (James Baker)


Call an Audible, Out of an Abundance of Caution, etc. (i.e., we are not using the plan)

This is a risky move for a commander, in that they are going against the planners and the plans for that operational period. No legal protection to hide behind when this is done. During COVID-19, these actions (i.e., not using the CBRNE/pandemic plans in place) were normalized by political leaders with the phrase “Out of an Abundance of Caution”.


Risk as a calculation or formula, has a number of elements to it. It usually involves threats and hazards.

If you have been through one disaster, you have been through one disaster

No two disasters are the same, even if they are in the same place and same type/hazard.

Hide from the Wind, Run from the Water

https://blueskiesmeteorology.com/run-from-the-water-hide-from-the-wind/ Issues with the Safer-Simpson Scale and the public’s reactions/actions when provided with complex information.

The NWS says

Run from the water. Hide from the wind. The most critical decision that can be made is to leave the area at risk of storm surge flooding. Most well-built structures are safe even in major hurricane winds. Even well-built structures fail to provide protection from water. Listen to local officials when they issue evacuation orders.



NATO quote in Latin.

Coming in Hot

Viet Nam war reference for helicopters

Never say the Q word

one of those superstitions in the EM field. Especially never ever say “Have a Q—-t Weekend”

The moment you open a shelter is the time to start planning how it will close

The ramp up to opening a mass care general population shelter serving people with disabilities, access and functional needs (yes, that’s what shelter’s are really called) is quite complex and requires all three of the “S”‘s – Staff, Stuff and Site(s). All of these have to be demobilized or transferred – if the clients all depart – or the shelter site needs to be moved to another location. There could also be co-located pet and medical needs sheltering, emergency supplies distribution sites, fixed feeding sites. All of those needs to be considered and planned for. In many, many disasters – this is the most recurring complex operation that an Emergency Manager has oversight on.

Not my Clowns, Not my Circus


Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.

Usually misattributed to CS Lewis

Release the Kraken / Big Push

Speed to Scale – Speed to Service


Throw like a girl

Time – Distance – Shielding

Works for not only explosive incidents (CBRNE), but other threats as well. The faster you get further away from any threat, and shielding yourself in the process – the better. Active Assailants, too.

Train like you fight, fight like you train

The 10th Fish Rule

Okay, some call it the 10th man rule, as this blog does, but the point is someone needs to be the “devil’s advocate” and argue for consequence management. From Chris Meyer of The Mind Collection.

If it’s not written down – it didn’t happen

Document your work – via logs (214 forms), SitReps, etc. This is for your credit and your protection.

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