Safety-II concepts succeed in Empowering People With Disabilities in Crises


Posted by Nuwan Waidyanatha on August 19, 2020  /  0 Comments

Abstract – The article highlights the essence of the safety-II paradigm and its potential for empowering People With Disabilities (PWDs) with adaptive capacity to face crises. Furthermore, the article recommends approaching safety-II through a community of practice involving PWDs, disabled persons organizations, public safety community, and all other relevant crisis management practitioners and researchers.


Why disability matters – one billion people are disabled (infographic source World Health Organization – 2016)

The impact of disaster on a disabled person’s health is significant, including the number of People With Disability (PWD) deaths, injuries, diseases, and psychosocial problems. They are further effected with damage to their facilities and disruption to delivery of services to them over extended periods of time. Therefore, PWD safety in crises can be assured by empowering them, as well as their caregivers, family, and community that they largely depend on, with capacity to adapt in the time of crises. In the context of PWDs and “independent living” – looking after their own safety in emergency situations – one must have a good understanding of the environment and a comprehension of the risks. It is equally important to know yourself and realize your adaptive capacity to face those peculiar but frequent crises affecting the individual and catastrophic events affecting the community or society as a whole.

LIRNEasia’s report: stewarding situational awareness for safety of people with disabilities, recommends practicing Safety-II concepts because it will introduce ways for enhancing adaptive capacity for PWDs to safeguard against and appropriately respond to crises. Most importantly because Disability inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR) ought to consider a proactive and antifragile approach that has a focus to build on best practices that work and is effective.

This is Why

Swiss cheese model – some holes due to active failure align leading to accidents & losses

‘Safety-I’ paradigm, the predecessor to Safety-II, is accustomed to adopting the weaker Swiss Cheese Model or the Domino Model. Safety-I runs risk assessments to identifiable failures or potential malfunctions of specific components: technology, procedures, the human workers and the organisations in which they are interlinked. Risk analysis is a costly and laborious process, one that cannot ensure all microscopic, peculiar, and frequent risks affecting individuals and risks arising from catastrophic events that affects everyone can be mitigated. The problem with predicting future risks is that it works until it fails. As in the Swiss Cheese Model, when the holes in each shield slice aligns, hazards creep through leading to accidents and losses. The complexities and multitude of variations also arise from how PWDs perceive risk. Moreover, risk assessments can be laborious and incomplete in covering every possible risk factor.

The contrasting ‘Safety-II’ concept is effective and the reason why things go right is because it:

  • Stops focusing only on how to avoid things from going wrong and emphasize on why things go right instead,
  • Complements “antifragility” by addressing the volatility in the risk and learning to bounce forward,
  • Succeeds under varying conditions of the environment and constraints,
  • Assumes that everyday performance variability provides the adaptations that are needed to respond to varying conditions, and
  • Acts as an evolutionary complement of the conventional Safety-I thinking that happened before resilience concepts and practices were realized 

How it’s done

The building blocks for forging situational awareness tools in support of PWD; with safety-II, DiDRR, situational awareness platform being the stacked bases.

The situational awareness doctrine does exactly that to complement safety-II because situational awareness informs the big picture of a crisis allowing PWDs and public safety, crisis response and emergency management communities to perceive, comprehend, and project their decisions and actions necessary to adapt to the crisis. The mechanics of offering and attaining situational awareness through situational awareness platforms and tools was discussed in the previous article: situational awareness saves people with disabilities in crises.

Instrumental to DiDRR and building a situational awareness platform is the underlying basis of accepting and implementing safety-II practices – realizing what works well is not intuitive and must be a collective and collaborative effort with every stakeholder, including Public safety, Crisis Response Organizations, PWDs and Disable Persons Organizations (DPOs) learning together. For such, the report recommends that DPOs take the lead in formulating a community of practice because the community of practice will foster a ‘learning friendship’ with everyone learning about their needs, challenges, and best-practices in a meaningful way.

Who will benefit

A key outcome of a thriving community of practice will pave the way for operationalizing a useful and easy to use situational awareness platform that interconnects emergency services, response organizations, DPOs, caregivers, Family, Community, and the PWDs to be empowered to effectively project and decide on the required adaptive capacity to respond to crises. Moreover, the community of practice will break the siloed effects that is the main barrier to DiDRR. Thereby, national and local public safety officials, emergency services, and crisis response organizations are bound to succeed and be subject less criticism for excluding PWDs in crises, as it is the case now.  

Comments are closed.