Let’s be honest, when it comes to quotes and sayings there’s almost an endless supply. However, if you move in certain circles for long enough you hear some sayings or maxims repeated as mainstays. Emergency management is no different. I’ve chosen three sayings that perhaps, all emergency response personnel may find useful when adversity next presents itself. Like many quotes and sayings nowadays, sometimes their origin is not so clear. I’ve referenced the quote sources below but I’m aware that variations of the quote may also exist.
1. Any decision, even the wrong decision, is better than no decision. – British army saying
‘Stuck in the moment’; ‘Rooted to the spot’ and ‘Frozen in indecision’ are all terms that you may have heard. All of which describe indecision. Doing nothing, especially during an emergency, almost always results in no progress towards an outcome; right or wrong. Hence, when faced with a fluid and dynamic situation any decision results in progress. If the decision turns out to be a wrong decision, then that course of action has been tested and failed fast and now there’s time to make a course correction.
2. Do what you can with what you’ve got, where you are. (Right here, right now) – Theodore Roosevelt + (US Marine Corps adaptation) micropile drilling
This saying or maxim is designed to overcome the problem of waiting for the right time or the right resources. One thing is true when it comes to emergencies is that they seldom happen when you’re ready and waiting and they’re always inconvenient. Improvise, Adapt and Overcome has become an adopted mantra in many units of the Marine Corps which is essentially an abridged version of the above quote with the same intent. In an emergency situation, perhaps more than any other quotes this rings true. Don’t wait or anguish that ‘if only’ you had more time or ‘if only’ I had a… (piece of equipment etc.) – make a decision and do what you can with what you’ve got, right here right now!
3. If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid. – US Army saying
This quote should give you the courage to think outside the square and perhaps find a solution that’s not so obvious. In an emergency, all ideas should be assessed. John Boyd’s OODA loop (for observe, orient, decide, and act) is a concept originally for fighter pilots. It draws heavily on continually assessing ones surroundings, developing a selection of possible actions, forming decisions and then acting. This is called a ‘loop’ because as soon as you’ve finished the process you start the process again and so on. If you are presented with an entirely unfamiliar circumstance forget about your preconceptions and fixed ideas about things. Clarity is extremely important for making a good decision, so keep an open mind and be open to suggestions and other ideas.