Consequence Management

It follows that If we want to gain community trust through inclusion within planning and training sessions for incident response, then we, as leaders, also need to recognize that there is a large training gap within our society:  we must train more on consequence management at all leader levels.

Consequence management is predominantly an emergency management function and includes measures to protect public health and safety, restore essential government services, and provide emergency relief to governments, businesses, and individuals affected by the consequences of terrorism.  However, there should be a broader understanding of the term; consequence management is, at its center, about problem-solving (often requiring leaders to make decisions with a less than satisfactory understanding of the situation and within a time sensitive environment).  Consequence management is about rapid decision-making in a stressful situation. 

Steps to problem-solving include:

  • Identify the problem
  • Gather information
  • Determine the desired outcome
  • Narrow the scope of the problem
  • Determine possible solutions
  • Compare/contrast the solutions
  • Make a decision
  • Rehearse
  • Execute
  • Re-assess the situation


Another factor that must be considered in how we train leaders to make decisions during emergencies includes understanding what is often referred to as the “2nd and 3rd Order Effects.”  The first order effect occurs when a leader makes a decision and the results are immediately witnessed.  The second order effect occurs when there is a reaction to the decision that happens in the near future.  The third order effect is a longer-term reaction to the initial decision that may not be foreseen by the leader during a stressful situation. 

Orders of Effect:

  • 1st Order Effect:  a leader makes the decision to thoroughly clear an entire building before declaring it safe for additional first responders to move inside.
  • 2nd Order Effect:  the building is most likely safe for medical evacuation operations, but several injured people died of their wounds while waiting for medical treatment.
  • 3rd Order Effect:  the public demands answers from their community leaders as to why victims died, and there is a growing sense of mistrust in the capabilities of their leaders.

How can leaders from various organizations, skill sets, and training qualifications work together, then, to become better at consequence management when there appear to be potentially numerous negative results from any decision?  This would seem to be a difficult challenge, and there are several other factors as to why leadership training and professional development are not improving rapidly enough for our communities:  defunding protests, demands for greater accountability, reduced training budgets, lack of qualified training managers, significant staff shortages, unwillingness to work closer with the community… there are a multitude of issues that are compounding the problem.  But, the primary objective remains unchanged:  formal and informal leaders must gain and maintain their community’s trust.

So, what is an effective training concept to help with problem-solving and decision-making skills?  Tabletop exercises are designed to help leaders understand potential problems and risks, resource requirements, communication challenges, and contingency plans.  Essentially, tabletop exercises force leaders to go through several iterations of problem-solving on a specific situation.  Many people think tabletop exercises are difficult to plan and resource, boring, time intensive, and hard to control.  I agree with them!  Tabletops are like a chess match between strong adversaries, but the environment in which they challenge each other is important.  Every leader will benefit from the use of tabletop exercises but only if they understand what the training helps to reinforce:  problem-solving and consequence management.

Crisis Response Leader Training’s simulation is designed to help any leader that is concerned about safety and security.  Our software solution, The Incident, modifies the traditional tabletop exercise to make it easier for nearly any organization to use.  The Incident is an engaging 3D solution that helps with learning management, emergency action plans, response training, community outreach, and most importantly, problem-solving, decision-making, and consequence management

By Tod Langley
Mar 22, 2022


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