This edition of the CRJ is about challenging assumptions. It is about unpicking the strands of the Covid-19 pandemic and its multiple cascading consequences, all the while being mindful of how they are conflating with other disasters and emergencies, such as the storms, other extreme weather and wildfires sweeping across the world as we pass for press.
Many cosy assumptions about emergency preparedness systems, society, security and international relations have clearly been misguided and, in part, this stems from a historical lack of emphasis on preparedness and mitigation in favour of post-crisis response. On p28 Eric McNulty notes: “The ever greater demands we place on responders are the result of design failures in our institutions and communities,” asking, “How often have you seen … honorifics bestowed on those who labour on mitigation, preparedness and recovery?”
This leads us to the status of the complex horizontal and vertical relationships between governments, emergency preparedness experts, responders and, most importantly, the public. Assumptions are all too often being made about public involvement in – and experience of – emergencies, as is emphasised by David Wales on p16.
When systems are found wanting and citizens don’t feel that their needs are being addressed or recognised by authorities, unrest and dissent can proliferate. Starting on p60, CRJ looks at some of the manifestations of such unrest, from lockdown tribalism to overzealous digital behaviour. These trends affect us all – business, emergency planners, responders, governments, communities and individuals – and Jennifer Hesterman provides a sobering reminder of what happens when online crime, terror and vigilantism spill over into the real world (p64). This is backed up by the heightened vulnerabilities highlighted by authors in our cyber feature, many of them warning about the heightened cyber risks brought about by the sudden transition to home working as lockdowns rolled out around the world (p40).
CRJ is not for tearing down systems that work, nor does it advocate the indiscriminate ripping up of assumptions. But failure to ask questions and debate the more difficult subjects that have been delicately skirted around for many years – often through fear of challenging sacred cows – can only lead to crippling atrophy when facing the future.