After many years of providing emergency and disaster management services, it occurred to me that I was offering very technically correct explanations of theoretic disaster management practices, which meant very little to people that had never heard of the concepts before. We all manage disasters daily, thankfully on a much smaller scale. What prompted me to think of this was a disastrous date I arranged with my wife for her birthday. I can apply it to the emergency management cycle of Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery. 

Firstly, my wife Karen is a self-confessed control freak. She pretends she enjoys surprises, yet we both know that she hates them. One day of the year, she reluctantly allows me to organise her birthday celebration. During COVID 19, we have not been out a lot, so I bit the bullet and decided to make a weekend of it. This meant actually making a proper plan and arranging everything on my own.  

 

Prevention 

There is currently a known labour shortage in Australia and the hospitality industry is suffering. To mitigate the risk, I needed to book early, 3 weeks in advance. Therefore, early preparation would be the key. Also, I needed to impress Karen, so I researched her favourite chefs and shortlisted the options.  

 

Preparedness 

I booked a City Hotel for two nights, as regional travel was mostly booked up. Also, there were reduced numbers in most restaurants, so there was a risk of not being able to get dinner reservations. Being the well-prepared emergency manager I am, I booked a swanky restaurant called Matilda in South Yarra for Friday, a new restaurant by Melbourne’s Scott Pickett, and a Steakhouse for Saturday. I ensured my son would be home to feed the animals, I had everything lined up. 

On the Friday night, I took Karen to the Botanical Hotel in South Yarra which is right next door to Matilda. We sat there celebrity spotting, we saw TV and Sports celebrities and Karen was duly impressed. I had her convinced that we were eating at the Hotel. Winning. 

As the reservation time came, I asked Karen to accompany me, and we walked next door into Matilda, which she had not noticed before. I could see how impressed she was, that I could organise this all by myself. I could see the love in her eyes. I had nailed it, all by myself, without the control freak’s influence. 

We walked up to the counter and began to check in. Karen was bewildered, I am starring and then…………disaster struck. 

 

Response 

As I checked in, I was advised by staff that there was no reservation under my name. I showed the reception my reservation confirmation, for this given Friday. It was then pointed out to me, and my wife, that my booking was for the Saturday! Karen burst into laughter while I channelled Hugh Grant at the beginning of Four Weddings and a Funeral, with a four-letter word wanting to repeatedly leave my mouth. I pulled myself together and thought I must have booked the steak restaurant for Friday. Let’s go there. I checked my email, and you guessed it, both reservations were for Saturday. I reconnected with Hugh Grant, while Karen buckled over laughing. It was time for me to launch recovery, ASAP. 

 

Recovery 

To recover, I had three recovery objectives being as follows: 

  1. I needed to find another restaurant that did not have a meal deal as a part of its menu 
  1. I had to stop Karen laughing 
  1. I needed to stop this connection with Hugh Grant and dropping f bombs 

So this is what I did: 

Objective 1, restaurant: I called the steakhouse and there was no answer. Bugger. I tried again. Hugh Grant re-emerged, nick off Hugh. I organised an Uber to our accommodation, left Karen in the lobby and walked, in fact ran, to the Steakhouse. They had a table. 

Objective 2, stem the laughter: I ran back and got Karen. She was still laughing, yet she could see I had settled. I told her that the night was saved, the Steakhouse has a table for us. It was underneath a staircase, yet it was a table. 

Objective 3, the f bomb: I was having trouble shaking off Mr Grant’s influence. Yet most indiscretions were under my breath. The night was somewhat saved.  

The following night we went to Matilda’s and the weekend was saved and possibly enhanced. The following stage of emergency management is to conduct an After-Action Review. This I cannot report on, as with most families, this review will be ongoing for some years. 

 

Disaster Management Concepts 

I by no means wish to belittle Emergency Management. We, and our clients prevent, plan for, respond to and recover from some horrible events, often where lives, homes and livelihoods can be lost. What I do wish to do is explain the concept in a way that everybody can understand and make a heavy topic lighter. 

Consider your business objectives. What has to go right for your organisation in order for it to reach its objectives?  Mitigate your business risks and understand that the best laid plans go wrong. Sometimes it’s natural disasters, human error, supplier failure, loss of infrastructure (IT, electricity, water) etc. The important part is to stay safe, respond to the event, set recovery objectives, and deliver. In my case, the Hugh Grant reaction was natural, but did nothing to recover the situation. If your objectives are important enough, have a prepared recovery plan. If you don’t have one, make a simple one, fast, with simple and easily understood objectives. 

Next year I will set my reprieve. I know we have wedding planners, are there birthday planners?