Project Management and Emergency Management: Dealing with Changes in a Changing Environment

SECOND EDITION                                                         

Costanza Galastri and Blanche Mitchell

Hasset Willis and Company

Washington, D.C., USA


Project management allows organizations to manage change and incorporate emerging needs and requirements while seamlessly providing critical services to stakeholders. Effective project management requires project managers to anticipate issues and plan for “things to go wrong” while maintaining effectiveness and efficiency. Similarly, emergency response requires response agencies and organizations to act effectively and efficiently during and/or immediately following a disaster. In the U.S., emergency response agencies have a long history of managing changing environments.

In recent years, the emergency management community has begun shifting its focus to preparedness capacities needed to respond to “maximum of maximums” scenarios. These planning scenarios are meant to critically stress assets, plans, and procedures at all levels of government and go beyond the capabilities of government solutions. The same process does not exist, yet, in project management. This analysis represents a first attempt to identify emergency management practices that can assist project managers in coping with a “maximum of maximums” scenario during project execution.


Project managers and emergency management practitioners share a long history of coping with changing environments, managing unforeseen conditions, and addressing unanticipated requirements. Established best practices – in both disciplines, require managers to anticipate and plan for potential threats, while maintaining effectiveness and efficiency in project execution. These practices allow project managers and emergency managers to remain agile and responsive while operating within the construct of their respective disciplines.

Further, both disciplines require practitioners to make sound, rapid, and accurate decisions—based on the best information available at the time. Emergency managers and project managers are decision makers who collect, consume, and convey key information in crisis situations. In many instances, this means making decisions based on limited, incomplete information. Just as information, or the lack thereof, can compromise project objectives, bad or delayed information during a crisis can add chaos to an already unstable environment. Nevertheless, as Sawle stated in 1991, “in a crisis, the worst decision is no decision and the second worst decision is a late one.” This statement appears to apply equally to both disciplines.

Despite these similarities, in recent years some differences have begun to emerge. First and foremost, the emergency management community, nationwide, has begun shifting its focus to preparedness capacities needed to respond to catastrophic disasters—maximum of maximums. These “maximum of maximums” scenarios critically stress assets, plans, and procedures at all levels of government and go beyond the capabilities of government solutions. The same process does not exist in project management, yet. This analysis is an attempt to identify emergency management practices useful in assisting project managers in coping with a “maximum of maximums” scenario during project execution.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 1st Annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium in College Park, Maryland, USA and included in the conference Proceedings in June 2014. It is republished here with permission of the author and the Project Management Center for Excellence at the University of Maryland.

About the Authors

pmwj26-sep2014-Galastri-AUTHOR1 GALASTRICostanza Galastriflag-italyflag-usa

Hassett Willis & Company

Washington, DC, USA

Costanza Galastri earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the Universita’ Degli Studi Di Firenze, in Florence, Italy, in 1994. She received a Graduate Diploma in International Studies and a Masters of Arts degree in Strategic Studies and International Economics for Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, in 2002. Ms. Galastri is a highly skilled emergency management and incident response planning consultant. She has more than nine years of expertise in the areas of emergency management and incident response planning, exercise and real-world event evaluation, and lessons learned development and analysis. Ms. Galastri is a recognized subject matter expert in nuclear and radiological incident response planning, including mass evacuation and reception planning. She also has extensive expertise in public health and emergency medical preparedness and response. Ms. Galastri holds multiple Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Emergency Management Institute Independent Study course certificates as well as Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration, Emergency Operation Training Academy independent study course certificates. She has authored several papers on international terrorism, emerging threats and emergency preparedness. Costanza can be contacted at [email protected]

pmwj26-sep2014-Galastri-AUTHOR2 MITCHELLBlanche Mitchell, PMPflag-usa

Hassett Willis and Company

Washington, DC, USA

Blanche Mitchell received a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Park University, Parksville, Missouri in 1996. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with more than 18 years of Program/Project Management experience and extensive knowledge of the Program/Project Management Lifecycles, knowledge areas, processes and industry best practices. She is experienced in erecting efficient and effective enterprise Program/Project Management Offices while ensuring that programs and their component projects align with organizational strategic objectives. She has successfully erected PMOs in both private industry and the Federal Government. Ms. Mitchell has extensive experience in Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) processes and is skilled in developing and maintaining comprehensive and healthy Business Cases—Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Exhibit-300 (E-300). She has provided Program and Project Management Subject Matter Expertise to support the Department of Homeland Security; Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Office of Health Affairs; Department of Veteran’s Affairs; the Bureau of National Affairs; Freddie Mac; Blue Cross and Blue Shield; and Verizon. Blanche can be contacted at [email protected]