Learning in disaster LO27270

From: Chamberlain Anne L (achamberlain@buckconsultants.com)
Date: 09/24/01

Dear Learners,

As a practitioner and 20-year resident of an area near the World Trade
Center (and former Tower worker), and wanted to at least share a few
practical observations and some hopeful thoughts in a very painful time.

My first thought on seeing the fires was that up to 50,000 people might be
in the WTC on a given day. Working there in the 1980's I remembered a
minor fire where the company fire warden tried to convince me there really
wasn't a fire, because he perhaps didn't really know what to do about it!
Yet now, we hear from people working there that as soon as the accident
occurred, many immediately recalled the bombing in 1993. At that time
evacuation was very slow. That memory motivated many many people to
immediately leave the building, in an orderly way. Through "learning"
from a bombing, probably many lives were saved.

The second example is that many businesses, and law enforcement, utilities
and even some families had the experience of planning for a "Year 2000"
disaster that did not occur, but forced many to consider preparations.
This made communications and disaster operations easier in the days
following the incident, and enabled us to recover, at least externally.

There was a television broadcast of our new Fire Chief. He talked about
learning from the situation and changing how firefighters are deployed.
Hopefully we won't need to benefit from his learning any time soon, but it
is comforting to know that in the middle of this crisis people are
thinking about learning.

The other thing we see is the incredible resiliency of cities. This
should be no surprise, knowing history, but to experience small aspects of
life coming back every day feels like a miracle. Subway tunnels dug 100
years ago turn out to be sound. Traffic flows. The newspaper gets
delivered. There are the most amazing offers of help, family and friends
reuniting, and support from around the world. We take care of each other.
As a city, at least, we are figuring it out.

At work we talk about the long time implications for employers and
employees (our clients). We think employees will be more concerned for
personal safety and also financial security. We suspect some people will
begin to question their life choices and some will decide to make major
changes. And we think there will be some conflicts in the workplace as
people sort things out. Any thoughts about the long term impact of these
events is welcome.

Thank you for your kind words at this difficult time.

Anne Chamberlain
HR and Organization Effectiveness
Buck Consultants


Chamberlain Anne L <achamberlain@buckconsultants.com>

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