The maelstrom of leadership

As the Fire Rages

A building fire rages. Residents are trapped inside. Fire crews are assembled outside awaiting instructions.

The Government Minister asks the Incident Commander why he isn’t issuing orders to fight the fire and send in BA crews. “We’re waiting for the scientists to tell us which way the fire will spread,” says the Incident Commander, shouting to be heard above the screams.

“Oh, ok then,” says the Government Minister. “As long as you’re following the science.”


The Cynic may say that little fable was inspired by the snail-like response of government on behalf of the citizens of the UK in their “world-class” response to the Covid19 pandemic.

The Sympath might read that no minister – or prime minister come to that – could have a clear grasp on tackling an unprecedented phenomenon that is ever-evolving as often contradictory scientific evidence unfurls by the hour.

The Cynic has taken issue. He points to SARS and Ebola and Zika and Swine Flu. Don’t get him started on Exercise Cygnus.

Finally roused, the Empath urges due consideration. No minister in their right mind would try to get elected on a resilience ticket. They gen up on the economy, health, education, crime and social justice. In more recent times, they profess a grasp of climate change, global economics, the free market economy and Brexit. They know next to nothing about building a resilient society. Why would they? Whoever heard of disaster preparedness winning an election?

It can lose one though, chips in the Cynic. And they/we all laugh.

This could of course be a socially distanced conversation down the pub or in the carefully segregated coffee shop. It is also the sort of internal dialogue that goes on within this reporter every time the careful construction of a Charter for Resilience is dissected. Whichever way I look at it, love them or loathe them, politicians are largely a liability when it comes to resilience; it is the one point on which the Cynic, Sympath and Empath are in total agreement.


The Charter for Resilience

  • Society is placed on a permanent state of readiness to respond effectively to all national emergencies
  • Structures are established to identify, analyse and provide oversight to all credible threats to national safety
  • Reasonable steps are taken to ensure all scientific measures and technological advancements are aligned to reduce the impact of major threats
  • A rapid response to all national threats is engrained at local, regional and national levels
  • The supporting infrastructure is in place to ensure effective and timely response
    Effective systems are established to mitigate social and economic impact from national emergencies
  • Community cohesion, collaboration and resilience are built into the fabric of daily life and form the cornerstone to national resilience.
  • Department for Resilience charged with overseeing delivery of the Resilience Charter.


Engraining the Charter for Resilience in the fabric of society and building resilient, connected communities – as outlined in FIRE’s award-winning white paper on a five-step reset from the April issue – will ensure the new architecture for society emboldens leaders and the public to unite around a shared vision for protecting our communities. Building a strong, flexible framework will ensure future governments will be able to respond proactively, step outside the maelstrom of reactive catch-up decision making and respond effectively to the next pandemic or disaster.

Learning on the job won’t cut it in future when it comes to protecting the public from the next global catastrophe.

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