Crisis management: Petra Dassen-Housen, mayor of Beesel, talks about responding to a hostage situation

Dr. Petra Dassen-Housen has been the mayor of Beesel, a small town in the Dutch province of Limburg, since 2011. In November 2013, the village Reuver, located in the municipality of Beesel, was shocked by a hostage-taking situation that ended with the death of the hostage-taker and his three-year-old daughter.

In a talk dr. Dassen-Housen gave to third-year bachelor’s students participating in the course Crisis Management in Organizations (EBC2100) at the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE), she shared what she experienced that fatal day; how, what and when she communicated to citizens and media; and more generally, she reflects on her role as leader of the crisis management team.

During the course, students learn which factors make organisations crisis prone, and what organisations can do to avoid or handle a crisis intelligently. An important component of crisis management is crisis communication, which consists of two stages. In the first stage, business and political leaders use communication to address the physical and psychological concerns of the victims. In the second stage, they will try to repair the reputation and/or prevent reputation damage.

Inviting visiting practioners to talk about how to handle a crisis and how to put crisis communication into practice is a traditional component of the course. Previous speakers have included a firefighter commander, a trauma psychologist and BNP Paribas’s HRM manager.

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