Volume 16 Issue 2
On top of the millions of deaths and protracted health consequences brought about by this pandemic, Covid-19 is a particularly cruel crisis in that it isolates and deprives people of the comfort they would normally derive from the affirming company of other human beings. As Lyndon Bird says on p8: “We are social animals. We need to get together to share thoughts, feelings, ideas, hopes, and sometimes complaints.”
Of course, technology has helped with multiple ways of communicating that were unimaginable just a few years ago. But although many of today’s virtual methods of communication are widely viewed as being here to stay, in some circumstances human contact is, quite simply, irreplaceable. Virtual interaction can never fully replicate the complex subtexts and nuanced cues when meeting another person face-to-face.
Words and body language are vital, as described in Jeannie Barr’s exploration of communication and vocabulary used during emergencies. The choice of language and tone can be either helpful or detrimental in a crisis (p73).
On p64 Lina Kolesnikova examines how Covid-19 has disrupted working and shopping habits, as well as the ways we access healthcare and information. She says that the very essence of what we define as ‘critical’ infrastructure is being transformed. This brings new risks in terms of resilience and security, including in the areas of technology we have come to rely upon during Covid-19.
Design is another undervalued but essential piece in the jigsaw of humanitarian and emergency response disciplines. David Wales notes on p76: “As the meeting point between states and communities, public service agencies would greatly benefit from making design a standard approach.”
The key lies in understanding people – their culture, fears, concerns, past experiences and predispositions. Michele Wucker calls this an individual’s unique risk fingerprint (p44).
All of the above should be combined with a simple shift of focus onto the people dealing with – and affected by – a crisis, says Thomas Lahnthaler (p50). Because, above all, we must not forget that crisis management is about people.