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Home > Reviews > Managing Crises Overseas

Managing Crises Overseas

Author Scott Ast

ISBN No 9781482245790

Review date 26/06/2019

No of pages 248

Publisher CRC Press

Publisher URL

Year of publication 07/11/2016


Managing Crises Overseas

Our Review


£ 49.99

Scott Ast is already the author of another, related, 2009 book: Managing Security Overseas: Protecting Employees and Assets in Volatile Regions. Many security management and other business books written by North Americans have the disadvantage for non-US readers that the case studies, laws and passing references are aimed at a US audience. However in this case, 'overseas' either means where we (the non-US foreigners) live, or places where UK as much as US firms are operating.

He stresses at the very start that crisis management plans are so much wasted time if the more senior management don't buy into them. Also, other functions such as HR and legal must be involved - a point he returns to at the very close of the book; rather than testing a plan for a tsunami (and a hurricane next year), go to the organisation's specialists - such as in IT, and corporate communications - and task them with an aspect of the crisis management plan. Such as, if the servers and computer systems in a country aren't working, how do you keep on paying your in-country staff? How do you pay suppliers, or provide counselling to staff after an earthquake?

Ast admits that he's not a fan of tabletop exercises, as he doesn't believe that the people around the table learn a lot. And if those taking part are referring to the crisis management plan, are they going to have that to hand, in a real crisis? Chances are that the scenario you choose for the tabletop will not happen next.

The author raises other pitfalls. Country managers may think that they know their patch; and as they're senior enough, they may have enough seniority or political power to cause you, the crisis and security practitioner, some hardship if you get on their wrong side. And if the country manager comes unstuck because he hasn't foreseen a crisis, you can't say 'I told you so'. Ast points out: "No particular region in the world is completely free from what one might call emergencies, crises or disasters - or the possibilities of such. What is safe by one standard - say,a quiet, stable and dependable political system - might be plagued by annual brush fires or seismic activity', or flooding or protests. Yet what seems obvious to outsiders can be hidden from those on the ground, even though you might think that locals know about where they are living. All too often, as Ast says, crisis plans are developed 'after something bad has happened'.

He stresses that you can't with safety have canned procedures and even exercises. In a country that's suffering from civil disorder, it might be wiser to grab your bags and evacuate; or to stay put quietly. If you take to the roads but are frisked or worse at a road-block, you learn for next time. Ast argues that 'it takes a crisis to make a crisis team. It takes a crisis to test a crisis plan. And, it takes a crisis to test the organisation.' He gives the example of a changing, simmering crisis in a country where the country manager feels sure all will be fine; perhaps because he does not want to lose contracts or what he's built up. But what if the country's government shuts down mobile networks and the internet in an extremity? How do you communicate then? 'Dithering and wasting time don't work in crisis management.' Lives may be at risk if you don't evacuate to the airport in a convoy, while the in-country manager complains that pulling up stakes will jeopardise client relations. Even as you are sitting on the fence, families of the expats are worrying. Hunkering down is often the best chance of surviving an emergency, he suggests - unless, remaining represents a threat to life safety, if a typhoon is coming or rebels are making house to house searches. As Ast rightly says, crisis management is not for the faint of heart.