Failures of imagination
: terrorist incident response in the context of crisis management

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, New York in September 2001, the focus on terrorism and the ability of society and organisations to withstand such incidents has sharpened considerably. At the same time, business continuity and dealing with crises have moved to the forefront of organisations' awareness, not least due to improved regulatory requirements and guidelines.
    However, this thesis contends that the current methodological framework for responding to terrorist incidents is flawed, resulting in the same issues becoming evident, over and over again. It is argued that an awareness and adoption of three key risk and crisis management methodologies: Fink's Crisis Management Methodology, Risk Communication and Isomorphic Learning, could improve the analysis of such incidents and hence better the response in future.
    Three significant terrorist attacks were analysed within the context of contemporary literature and two factors were found to be the main cause of difficulties in managing the response to each of the incidents: communication and an inability to achieve organisational learning. It was argued that part of the reason for this was that organisations did not consider a link between crisis and terrorist incident response management and that learning from past experiences did not go beyond the most superficial level in most instances.
    This thesis demonstrated how risk and crisis management methodologies could have addressed each of the issues that were identified in the case studies and clarified the contribution that they could make. Of primary importance was the recognition that events that may appear dissimilar are, on examination, frequently intrinsically similar and hence can provide valuable learning opportunities.

    Date of AwardJul 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorEdward Peter Borodzicz (Supervisor)

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