Mastering the Art of Delegation in an Emergency

Mastering the Art of Delegation in an Emergency


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Hand drawing Delegate concept with marker on transparent wipe board isolated on white.

Hand drawing Delegate concept with marker on transparent wipe board isolated on white
First responders in training are taught that people are less likely to do anything at the scene of an

emergency if others are present. This is because people tend to assume that someone else called 911 or

that someone is beginning to render assistance. More people die or situations deteriorate due to a lack

of communication that prolongs access to efforts to take control of the scene.


It is very important to learn how to delegate effectively in a crisis in order to bring the situation under

control as quickly as possible. This involves a number of steps that are intended to get people to take

action without hesitation or confusion. Let’s take a look at some basic principles that can be used to

take control during a crisis and bring some order into a chaotic environment.


The first step is to be specific and clear as to who you want to act and what you want them to do.

Assigning tasks involves giving the job to someone that you think can handle it without delay or much

instruction. Call them by name, or point to someone, make eye contact and ask them their name.

Specifically identify someone and make sure that they know that you are addressing them and only

them. Give a clear, concise and specific task, whether it is calling 911 or sending them off to do

something. Make sure they repeat back the instruction and that they know exactly what they are

expected to accomplish.


The next step is to give them a specific time frame in which they need to accomplish that task. Words

like now, within 15 minutes or before the end of the day are specific and clear. Make sure they do not

head off and do what they are supposed to do before repeating back the deadline. You also want to

instruct them to follow up with you once their task is complete. Be specific as to how they are to

contact you or where to meet. The last thing that you want is for them to run off, do something and

then disappear without providing you with information that will help you to determine the next step.


You may also want to consider assigning managers to handle much of this work for you on your behalf.

This will free you up to focus on the bigger picture while someone else is taking control of the details.

However, it is important that you establish a similar chain of command and system of accountability.

Make sure they know their tasks and that they delegate and be specific with issuing directives and

assignments to those accountable to them. They should also report back to you at specific intervals

with status updates as well.


Remember that delegating is intended to involve others in the process to reduce confusion, establish

order and minimize unnecessary delays. Delegation is also designed to serve as an extension of your

management plan without the need to be involved in every step. Make sure that you are assigning tasks

that you would do yourself, and have an understanding of the goal that you want to accomplish. This

will help you to adapt your strategy as necessary and expand, modify or change assignments if they are

not meeting those goals.


Your role as a crisis manager or leader is to get everyone on the same page and working together as a

cohesive unit. Issuing clear instructions, establishing deadlines and making adaptations will help to

solve problems, reduce confusion and foster confidence that a chaotic situation is being controlled. Try

to keep things as simple and efficient as possible so that you and others will begin to see tangible

results. These principles can be applied to almost every situation, but remember that it is up to you to

take control and ensure that tasks are being handled without getting lost in the shuffle.

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