Pal (2009) notes the difference between a crisis and an emergency: whereas an emergency is an abnormal and unexpected threat even that requires immediate action, a crisis is a turning point or moment of danger that threatens the integrity or survival of an entire system. (It is possible for an event to be both a crisis and emergency at the same time.) The key thing about crisis is that it be managed effectively, otherwise the response itself (if badly coordinated) could become the crisis once the initial triggering event is over. Managers should assume that crises will occur, and prepare plans for how best to respond to potential (likely) scenarios. Pal notes five steps in effective crisis management: 1) be mentally prepared to acknowledge the existence of a possible crisis, 2) ensure that measures are taken to optimize chances of responding quickly and accurately, particularly with regard to how the media is brought into the picture, 3) ensure that those dealing with the crisis know their respective roles and lines of accountability and leadership, 4) develop a good communications strategy (possibly the most important step), and 5) draw lessons from the event following the resolution of the crisis in order to improve future ability to respond.
The term "Crisis" is also used frequently by students of economic development. Gourevitch, a scholar in this field, defines an economic development crisis as a situation that : "combines a major downturn in a regular investment/business cycle, a major change in the geographical distribution of production and a significant growth of new products and productive processes. "
Gourevitch goes on to describe characteristic properties of a crisis, writing: : "a crisis combines three properties: (i) a major downturn in a regular investment/business cycle; (ii) a major change in the geographical distribution of production; and (iii) a significant growth of new products and new productive processes. These three properties operate at an international level that deeply implicates domestic economies and so link conflicts over national policy within each country to international trends.