Project Management in the Danger Zone


By Mark Reeson and Helen Green, RN

United Kingdom

World disasters are Indiscriminate

Disaster can strike anywhere and at any time, these calamities can sometimes be predicted and prepared for due to the time of year or a change in atmosphere, yet mother nature with her majesty and mastery, has been and will be able to surprise the greatest minds when they least expect it. It is at the time when disaster strikes that people look directly or indirectly for guidance and support. It is at that time that the project manager and their team come to the fore and are at their best.

To place this importance into perspective and to give a general view of the scale of the situation that we are now addressing, a quick overview of 2016 paints a dark picture of what is happening and what continues to harm the environment and the population of the world. With a count of 109 earthquakes covering the globe, with a measurement of greater than 6.0 on the Richter scale, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes with immeasurable damage and with flooding, disease and hunger rife throughout the world, the biggest question has to be what can we do to protect and prepare ourselves next? Nothing is beyond human capability nor should it be beyond a future role for project management in relief, emergency management or disaster zones.

Much as the message is typically passed through industries that select their products and projects to gain profit or success, the same rules apply in this more emotive environment; you still need to handle the right disasters, with the right people, using the right method.

The Benefits of Project Management through the Phases of a Disaster

To best explain now how the project manager would suit the emergency management, relief or disaster environment and the work involved, it is best to break down the skills and competences into their appropriate uses through the phases of such a disaster much as in the life cycle of a project. To do this I chose to use the Faulkner Disaster Lifecycle and then to overlay the project management skill and competence sets for each stage.

The first of Faulkner’s stages is called the pre-event stage which is the period when pre-planning and prior preparation has to be done. What could be more natural to a project manager than to prepare a prevention or protection plan for an approach to disaster management dependent upon the region and the type of disaster? The planning, preparation and early warning solution would include the identification and the analysis of any potential risks or the issues that currently exist within the living or working environment and within the recovery of the incident make up some of the most fundamental skills of the project manager.

This need not and in many cases is not a technical stage but in actual fact, by having local knowledge and an understanding of the demographic, something as simple as an action board explaining the approach to any incident can be handled using the PESTLE environmental assessment to create a pre-planned checklist of processes and procedures. In addition, the opportunity at this stage to design and create various overview action plans to each of the proposed disasters can be drafted. The suggestion and the knowhow that it is in the quiet times when we should best prepare for disaster has never been more true than today.

Preparing and having an initial action plan gives you, the project manager and those around you (the locals, the government officials and the team members, yes your stakeholders) a greater confidence that should this plan ever be activated, there is guidance and a route map for survival and success to follow in the early days when so much more is happening around you. Once it is recognised that certain events trigger other certain occurrences, this overview plan can then be made more formal so allowing a delivery framework or process map to be drawn that gives greater credence and increased early warning to what, how and who will carry out what and so identifying the dependencies on how the necessary actions and services relate.


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About the Authors

Mark Reeson RPP FAPM PMP

United Kingdom


Professor Mark Reeson is a project management specialist with over thirty years’ experience. A Fellow of the Association for Project Management, he has been involved in many project and programme consultative roles.   Most recently Mark has been working with the Saudi Arabian Municipality of the Eastern Province to change the way that project management is carried out within the region, using his newly recognised SMART Sustainability Modelling for project and business management.

He was appointed a Professor of Project Management at the University of Business and Technology, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which was a culmination of his work in training and consulting in the region on matters that relate to project management, supply chain management and sustainability modelling. Having previously held the position of a specialist Sustainability Management Global Advisor he has moved forward from that position and now regularly supports businesses and projects alike in streamlining their approaches to change and strategic development providing greater longevity in their business planning.

Having started his career in the Royal Air Force, Mark has continued to develop by working and delivering projects in multiple fields of industry ranging from the nuclear environment, into pharmaceuticals, finance and also the international sporting fields.

Mark has developed his role within project management through further experience with the nuclear industry and is now the owner of M R Project Solutions Limited where he has fulfilled the role of Project Management Advisor for the last three and a half years covering every continent. His role is very much client facing and Mark now almost permanently travels the world meeting clients, developing solutions and providing training for their project families either directly through his own organisation or in support of others. Mark’s main role is the development and the consultation with many organisations on ensuring they choose the right approach or methodology to deliver their projects and then follows this up with the correct bespoke training programmes for how their company wants to share this learning with their staff members.

Mark has changed the approach to learning by the ongoing development of his original ‘Living Learning’ programme by introducing a new learning experience for all taking the classroom format and making it come to life with his popular and original ‘Applied Learning’ simulation training and coaching technique. He has taken this forward over the past few years to introduce this training style so that project management learning and behaviour has now started to be delivered into the schools and colleges looking to develop the technical, behavioural and contextual skills and attitudes of their students.

As a regular public speaker Mark now shares his experience, knowledge and commitment with those associations wanting to move forward in a more sustainable and successful manner.

Mark’s next aim is to develop this further and to spread project management knowledge and competency to many more organisations worldwide, having already started with successful deliveries globally.

Mark can be contacted at [email protected]


Helen Green RN (Adult) Dip HE

United Kingdom


Helen Green
is a Registered Nurse (adult) with over 20 years’ experience within the NHS. Her specialism is in Surgical and Theatre Nursing.

Helen has interests in Health and Fitness and is currently studying to qualify as a Health, Fitness, Nutritional and Lifestyle Coach.

This is Helen’s first piece of advisory and collaborative work, and publication with the Project Management community, and hopes that the two elements of health and project management both benefit from her involvement in the future.

Further information can be obtained from Helen at [email protected]