Emergency Evacuation and Ethical Decision Making - Essay Sample

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Sewanee University of the South
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Many corporate institutions in the United States have adopted the safety-first culture to reduce fatalities and environmental impact of incidents through sound ethical decision making (Courtney et al., 2014). Ethics are set of standards and principles that govern the conduct of an individual when carrying out a particular activity (Shaw, 2014 Beauchamp & Brenkert, 2012). Adherence to required standards and principles can increase the effectiveness of teams during emergency evacuations.

Inadequate ethical decision-making was a major factor that contributed to some of the response failures witnessed in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear disaster as those at the center of the accident had to wait for approval from individuals high in authority in order to undertake remedial actions after the disaster(Tominaga, Hachiya, & Akashi, 2014; Kastenberg, 2014). During a state of emergency, decision making sharply differs from conventional circumstances as decisions have to be made under constrained time and information (Zubir et al., 2016; Withanaarachchi, 2014). Under such circumstances, Courtney et al. (2014) propose that those involved at the frontline of disasters should be allowed to make decisions that bring the most good to persons at risk. In other words, hierarchical and legal issues should not be allowed to prevent employees from making decisions that save lives just like the way a pilot can ignore commands of aircraft controllers in order save passengers by making an emergency landing.

For individuals to be empowered to make quick decisions at the time of emergencies, it is critical to enact laws that protect decision makers in the frontline of disasters. Legal protection facilitates leads to sound decision making as well as supports protects the consequences of actions of individuals engaged in good faith response during evacuations (Courtney et al., 2014). This way, first responders would have the courage to make decisions that are reflective of the situation on the ground rather relying on legal provisions as long as such decisions are made in the best interest of the people at risk. Moreover, legal frameworks can promote planning based on previous disasters. For instance, the law can be used to hold stakeholders accountable for failure to plan for emergency evacuations or respond appropriately to disasters where there is a potential of preventing injuries and deaths of human life (Withanaarachchi, 2014; Courtney et al., 2014).This would put the safety of people above all other considerations.

Evacuation entails moving people and their belongings from the area of hazard (Zubir et al., 2016).The success of emergency evacuations somewhat depends on the culture of the organization as actions are largely influenced by its ethical practices and traditions of an organization (Withanaarachchi, 2014). In a safety context, these guidelines are meant not only to ensure that the safety and health of rescuers but also promote decisions that take the safety of people in disaster-stricken areas as supreme. When a culture of safety is institutionalized, the behaviors of actors in emergency situations emphasize on what is good for the people at risk and not compliance to systems and processes that need to be followed for certain decisions to be actualized(Courtney et al., 2014).

One of the approaches through which culture can be used to engender safe evacuations is through involvement of all stakeholders. Often, management makes decisions that conflict the expectations of the real situation on the ground. Better outcomes are likely to be realized when individuals at the operational level are made to understand the happenings at the scene of the hazard in a measure of what is captured by rescuers (Patterson, Weil, & Patel, 2009). As such, involvement equips those involved in evacuations with facts which are essential ingredients for sound decision making at the time of emergencies.

From the preceding discussion, it is apparent that ethical decision making can enhance the success of emergency evacuations. An ethical framework equips first responders with the capacity to make decisions based on facts at the scene of a hazard. This can be realized because, under an ethical decision-making framework, decisions are made in favor of the most good for people at risk rather their conformity to systems and process which are often pegged on hierarchy.


Beauchamp, T. L., & Brenkert,, G. G. (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics. Cary: Oxford University Press.

Courtney, B., Hodge, J. G., Toner, E. S., Roxland, B. E., Penn, M. S., Devereaux, A. V., Powell, T. (2014). Legal Preparedness: care of the critically ill and injured during pandemics and disasters: CHEST consensus statement. Chest, 146(4), e134S-e144S. doi:10.1378/chest.14-0741

Kastenberg, W. E. (2014). Ethics, risk and safety culture. Reflections on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident, 165-187. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-12090-4_9

Patterson, O., Weil, F., & Patel, K. (2009). The role of community in disaster response: Conceptual Models. Population Research and Policy Review, 29(2), 127-141. doi:10.1007/s11113-009-9133-x

Shaw, W. H. (2014). Business ethics. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Tominaga, T., Hachiya, M., Tatsuzaki, H., & Akashi, M. (2014). The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011. Health Physics, 106(6), 630-637. doi:10.1097/hp.0000000000000093

Withanaarachchi, J., & Setunge, S. (2014). Influence of decision making during disasters and how it impacts a community. 10th Annual Conference of the International Institute for Infrastructure Renewal and Reconstruction. doi:10.5703/1288284315349

Zubir, S. N., Thiruchelvam, S., Mustapha, K. N., Muda, Z. C., Ghazali, A., Hakimie, H., Tukiman, I. (2016). Conceptualization of a collaborative decision making for flood disaster management. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 32.

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