Crisis Management….Be Prepared Before You Need To Be

Posted on October 6, 2013 by


Crisis management refers to tactics employed in response to any form of disruption that may impact the organization’s business or activity for any length of time.  While most organizations have a plan, the need or importance for one became heightened post-9/11 and in light of the more recent episodes of workplace violence.  Organizations need to develop a strategic plan for dealing with a crisis that includes a response team, communication plan and key media list, an employee care plan and a business resumption plan.

Crisis Response Team

The crisis response team (CRT) should be made up of key senior leadership within the organization.  These include heads of key operations and policies within the organization.  The alternative is to identify key functional leaders and assign specific CRT responsibilities. The team should be led by the highest ranking leader on site.  Once alerted of a crisis, the team should identify and assemble in a tactical area (war room) that contains critical documents, including various crisis plans based on the nature of the situation.

Communication Plan & Key Media List

When a crisis occurs, information can spread quickly in this age of social media.  As an organization, you must have a plan to control the message that gets communicated or risk having a message communicated for you that may inaccurately portray the incident as well as how it is being handled.  This is where a communication plan and key media list are key.  The key media list is necessary for being able to alert remote staff of any plans or key information they will need.  With regards to the communication plan, depending on the nature of the incident, responding authorities will take the lead and control what is communicated to the media.  Note that when incidents have occurred, it is usually the highest ranking authority (police, ATF, etc) on site that communicates with the media and NOT the organizational authority until after the situation has been secured.  This is done for the protection of those involved as well as the first responders. Your organization should still have a plan.  Identify where the media will be held for briefings, who will provide those briefings and what information you can provide.  Take the lead from the highest ranking first responders and don’t get out ahead of them.

Employee Care Plan

The first duty of the leader within an organization during a crisis is to ensure the safety and security of the employees.  This means ensuring that all are accounted for in a safe and secure location.  Consider reaching out to the local Red Cross for buses as temporary shelters and supplies based on the nature of the emergency.  It serves a two-fold purpose. First, it provides for the immediate needs of the employees.  Second, it contains them to a secure location in the event that debriefing or interviewing by local authorities is needed.   Finally, in the event that employees are transported to a hospital, send a member of the leadership team and set up a hospitality suite at the hospital for the families.  The level of care that leadership shows to employees and their families during critical times may mitigate negative impressions.

Business Resumption Plan

Once the crisis has been resolved, take the time to debrief with the team and conduct a SWOT of the response plan.  Capture this information as lessons learned and a frame of reference for the future.   The organization should have already identified critical operations, processes and systems as well as the timing in which they must resume or the maximum length of time they can be down before crippling the organization.  Back up plans should be identified and implemented immediately based on the cadence from the critical processes lists. Alternative work sites, teams, equipment, and systems should also be in place.

How an organization responds to a crisis can determine public perception, employee perception and organizational resilience.  The best way to withstand potential disruptions is to have a well thought out and rehearsed crisis management plan.  While no one likes to think that it will happen, the reality is that it can happen to anyone and you must be prepared.