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The University of Southampton
Centre for Risk Research

CRR Publishes New Coronavirus Personal Planning Guide

Published: 17 June 2020
Protect and Prepare
Protect and Prepare

Dr Alasdair Marshall, an Associate Professor in Risk Management from the Centre for Risk Research, has published a new Coronavirus Personal Planning Guide that provides individuals with detailed and structured advice on how to manage the risks posed by coronavirus and similar future pandemics.

In January 2020, Dr Marshall first started to track the development of the coronavirus pandemic via the news media. He quickly became concerned by early predictions from epidemiological models that the virus would spread fast, have a high morbidity rate and overload health services. By late February, Dr Marshall had set about developing a ‘coronavirus personal planning guide’. The core premise of the guide was that public health-based mentalities-of-rule are likely to be more effective, and indeed more likely to elicit widespread support, if they made at least some provision for educating people in how to plan to deal with pandemic risk.

Drawing on his background in risk management and risk theories, Dr Marshall developed the Guide using a relatively simple approach. As he recently explained: “In the first main part of the Guide, people are advised to mimic how corporate risk managers sometimes develop control cascades. In practice, this means: (i) writing down lists of things they can do to ‘protect against’ the virus and ‘prepare for’ the disease it causes, and (ii) taking each listed item and using it to create a new list heading, under which a whole new set of more detailed risk control activities can be listed. In the second main part of the Guide, the advice is to ask a series of simple scrutiny questions for each risk control, such as ‘when the control should be applied?’ and ‘who should own the control?’ Notably, the idea that control actions should focus towards simple, small, easy things that offer obvious practical value, resonates with positive psychology and life coaching perspectives which emphasise that baby steps can be the best way to deal with overwhelming events.”  

Dr Marshall further explained: “One basic idea underlying the guide is that ‘personal planning’ constitutes a vital missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of how we, as a society, must deal with pandemic risks. Looking from the standpoint of governmentality theory, it can be argued that our response to coronavirus must be broadly participative, co-ordinated and integrated across society. However, such arguments from governmentality theory can also be extended. That is, the more complex society becomes, and hence the more individualised our risk problems become, the more important it becomes to promote socially distributed creativity and proactivity for finding ways to deal with the diverse impacts that pandemic risks have on peoples’ lives. The guide responds directly to this need for more creative and proactive ways to deal with the virus by providing guidance at a personal level.”

Dr Marshall is currently working on two academic papers which will complexify the ideas within the Guide. He is also developing a grant application to provide funding to simplify the ideas for more widespread use. Dr Marshall welcomes all expressed interest in and dissemination of the Guide.


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