Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsOn 15 January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York’s La Guardia Airport. During the climb-out, the plane struck a flock of geese and lost all engine power. With the plane going down, the pilot evaluated his options to minimise the risk of losing the lives of passengers. The captain made the unlikely decision to ditch on the Hudson on a freezing January day. He oversaw the forward evacuation of passengers and crew and prioritised the rescue of the most vulnerable. Welcome to this open short course on risk incident and leadership. Here we provide an insight into risk, specifically risk assessment and risk management and how it underpins emergency response.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 secondsWestern countries see risk as something that should be controlled, mitigated even eliminated by governments and civic institutions. This is reflected in the legal framework, regulation, and also in the impact of mass media which has a profound effect on the way that emergency responders go about their business. In the late 70s, the death of an emergency responder may not have resulted in litigation against the service involved. Yet nowadays we see this as a significant possibility and one that has an impact on every action taken before, during and after the incident. Disasters and emergencies have always been viewed as unpredictable in many ways.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 secondsAlthough human and systemic failures can always be identified and addressed, the responder would largely be seen as a hero whose actions were determined by the scale and scope of the emergency. Past analysis shows that risk is dynamic and real time risk assessment is crucial. Sounds, strategies, structures and systems are an important part of managing risk. In complex emergencies, responders require effective situational awareness. Situational awareness is the foundation of all decision making. Decision making is an essential part of managing emergencies and risk and it is these key elements that we will be focusing on during this short course.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 secondsIt’s important to remember that incident command systems can define protocols and ways of working, but often the success or failure of managing an incident lies in the decision-making processes and judgement calls of those leading the incident. Thank you for joining us in risk incident and leadership. We look forward to exploring these concepts and more with you in the forthcoming weeks.

What you can expect to do on this course

Over the past 40 years we have seen society’s attitude to risk change and many now expect it to be reduced or even eliminated. This is reflected in media interest, political influence and the resulting legal framework.

In that time there has been a gradual improvement in the way we respond to emergency risk incidents. Better standards, better training and better systems have all contributed to a greater understanding.

And yet, the nature of emergency and risk changes as our world changes, as new technologies are introduced or the climate changes, for example (Godschalk 2003). Individuals and communities alike continue to suffer loss and emergency responders continue to be placed at risk in the course of carrying out their duties.

In this course you will be introduced to the concepts, issues, processes and structures relevant to the management of risk during the emergency phase of an incident.

You will examine the relationship between formal risk management, command systems and leadership, including a look at the complex world of decision-making.

In this video, Dr El Parker, Principal Lecturer in Disaster Management and Course Director for MSc programmes at Coventry University, along with Paul Amos, a lecturer with extensive experience managing emergency incidents at a strategic level, welcome you to this Coventry University Online taster course and share how society’s view of risk has changed.

This short course is the introductory two-week course for a program in Risk Incidents and Leadership which forms part of MSc Emergency Management & Resilience online degree at Coventry University delivered on FutureLearn.

This week …

Through this week’s activities you will:

  • investigate the relationship between human attitudes and the perception of risk
  • apply a basic risk assessment
  • assess incident command systems and discover what they are designed to achieve
  • analyse incident timelines
  • discuss how emergency incidents are reviewed to minimise future risk

Meet the team

Image of Emma Parkinson, Lead Educator

Your Lead Educator on the course is Emma Parkinson, who is Senior Lecturer and Course Director for MSc Emergency Management & Resilience at Coventry University. She is an experienced emergency planner, specialising in crowd safety.

Image of Paul Amos, Educator

She is joined by Paul Amos MA, DMS, MIFireE, who has extensive experience in the field of emergency management.

Alongside them Dominique Duberry is your course host and will also be providing support during the course.

You can follow them by selecting the link to their FutureLearn profile page and selecting ‘Follow’. That way, you’ll be able to see all the comments that they make including course updates and feedback.

Checking your progress …

When you reach the end of a step and have understood everything, select the ‘Mark as complete’ button. This will update your progress page, and will help you to keep track of which steps you’ve done. Any steps you’ve completed will turn blue on your ‘To do’ list.

You can check your progress page by selecting the icon at the top of the step, where you’ll see what percentage of the course steps you’ve marked as complete.

Your task

In the video, El describes an example of the assessment of risk in an emergency situation.

Introduce yourself and share why you want to learn more about the place of risk in emergency management.

Have a look at other learners’ comments. If you can relate to a comment someone else has made, why not ‘Like’ it or leave a reply? You can filter comments in a variety of ways including ‘Most liked’ and you can also ‘Bookmark’ comments.


Godschalk, D. R. (2003) ‘Urban Hazard Mitigation: Creating Resilient Cities’. Natural Hazards Review 4 (3), 136-143

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This video is from the free online course:

Emergency Management: Risk, Incidents and Leadership

Coventry University