Understand your risk profile do a threat assessment and monitor your operating environment continually;
Crises have a characteristic of being unexpected, but should they be? Know your business and the risks that are likely to cause problems. (Injuries, Fatalities, Public Relations, Cash Flows, Environment). Scenario plan and work through solutions in advance.
Have a written plan and test it regularly;
Assign roles with identified alternates;
Managing a crisis takes you to a different level, leadership is paramount and an ability to stay cool and keep your eye on the big picture means that not all people are suited to the roles in your team. Incident management systems should be employed to ensure functional management, span of control and Management by Objectives are employed.
Leadership is paramount
Act decisively and quickly when a crisis occurs;
Coordination and control is key to regaining the initiative, the sooner a company implements sound control measures, the sooner they start the process of returning to normal operations. Apply a basic ‘Start/Stop’ process, what must we now start to do and what must we stop doing.
Be prepared to communicate;
Communication is vital throughout any incident; however it must be clear and concise with no ambiguity. Develop a communication strategy and implement it early. A solid communication strategy will significantly reduce the workload on incident management teams.
Assign a spokesperson;
Unauthorised and unofficial communications can be extremely damaging to any company during a crisis. A trained spokesperson should always be assigned during a crisis; however serious consideration needs to be given to whom that person should be, often this is dictated by the actual incident itself. Don’t forget how powerful a toll social media can be. Embrace it or avoid at your peril.
Support your staff and their families;
Often the focus of a poorly trained Crisis Management Team is solely on the external stakeholders, although the external stakeholders are extremely important it is critical that the management send a very clear message as to how they value their staff and what they are prepared to do for their staff and their families in their time of need. The implications of this will extend well after the incident is over.
Seek external expertise where needed and recognise your own limitations (e.g. public relations, legal advice, industrial relations, and security);
Identify potential allies and experts that may assist you in mitigating the impacts, do not alienate or try to blame potential allies. Utilise the experience of others to assist you in a time of uncertainty when you are attempting to make decisions under immense pressure and under a great deal of scrutiny.
Utilise the experience of others
Look to the future by starting the recovery process as early as possible;
It may sound cold and heartless, but at the end of the day the company needs to be restored to normal operations as soon as practicably possible. Ensure that you learn by the mistakes of the past and restore the operation to a higher standard than prior to the incident.
If you are developing business continuity plans at the start of an incident then you are already way behind schedule and will have very little chance of achieving a positive outcome.
Don’t leave it too late!
Craig Hynes AFSM, ERS General Manager