Where would resilience be without them?

Whether we’re talking about emergency or disaster management, business continuity management or resilience, we rely heavily upon acronyms and the well utilised ampersand symbol – & !

Confession time: at the age of 50 – and thanks to two former colleagues Sarah & Patrick), I only discovered ‘&’ had a name! It’s true what they say….

Word Up

Without acronyms, conversations (and typing) would take a lot longer. I guess that’s why we abbreviate in the first place; to save that illusively precious commodity of time.

Some acronyms have been with us since (seemingly) the beginning. Others pop in and out of fashion. Whilst others still are organisation dependant and can actually mean different things to different companies or industries.

Englishman in New York

Public inquiries and inquests from major incidents and disasters have, in the past criticized the over use of acronyms because they’ve caused confusion between emergency responders. Take the London 7/7 Inquiry as an example. The use of ‘plain English’ in the future was a key recommendation for the future by Lord Justice Hallet.

Acronyms are abundant in any single organization but when emergency responders come together for a common cause, it is important all parties understand what the shortened version stands for and means. Especially if they are to make collaborative decisions on a course of action.

The UK’s Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP) has helped improve communications across agencies for the better since it was introduced to improve emergency responses. But it does not eliminate the use or need for acronyms on a daily basis. In fact, we need them, to save time!

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You said what?

It seems appropriate to acknowledge that if acronyms are to be utilised correctly, any plans, policies, procedures and PowerPoint presentations, need to include a clear glossary of terms detailing what they stand for.

BC has a much popular meaning than Business Continuity, in the auto industry BCM is the Body Control Module of a vehicle and we all know that CM is mostly considered a unit of measurement, rather than our industry’s favoured Crisis Management.

The Wisconsin Tourism Federation needed to change their name – therefore creating a new acronym – when the popular use of its initials started to be understood as something entirely different…

And Microsoft decided to rename their ‘Critical Update Notification Tool’ which (thankfully) became their ‘Critical Updated Notification Utility’.

Acronyms are used to create ease, which works well if the people using them know what they stand for and mean… and are not in conversation with people outside the industry who take them to mean something else (or don’t understand them at all).


Paul Kudray

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – An international business resilience leader, Paul Kudray is a Fellow of the EPC and a Fellow of the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management (FICPEM). He is a Lead Auditor for ISO 22301. In 2014 he founded his own consultancy and he is an excellent forward thinking resilience innovator and blogger. paul@kudrayconsulting.com.

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