When seconds count, and believe me they do, it's nice to have already prepared a plan to use when managing a crisis. Having managed emergencies for organisations I have seen first hand what happens when no preparation has been done.
The Strategic approach to crisis management
The strategic approach involves the management team and especially the PR team to forecast how the operations of the business or organisation may expose itself to a crisis in the future and develop a prevention plan now.
Step 1: Monitor the environment
Take time to monitor the operations of all your neighbouring businesses to see if your business is exposed to a risk from being next to them when they have a crisis.
This preparation stage is important because the early warning systems your organisation has may not trigger from a crisis occurring externally to yours.
A good process here is to build strategic alliances with neighbours to help them in times of crisis, and in the end help protect your business as well. Consider participating in joint emergency training exercises to build response drills.
Step 2: Develop your internal communication systems
This is the first system I experience failing when I arrive at an emergency incident as the management team did not understand the importance of communication systems in the planning stage.
Having alarm systems and radio handsets mean nothing if they are not maintained or staff are not trained in their use. Imagine for a second the sheer chaos of 50 employees all trying to use the same radio network.
Consider radio codes and callsigns for all your crisis management team to shorten time on the air and train them all with full scenario practice sessions.
Tip, ensure you have enough batteries to last an eight hour crisis or longer.
Develop your emergency tree contact list now and review it monthly to ensure all data is correct and up to date.
Step 3: Prepare all your documents, forms and messages now
There is nothing worse than trying to control a crisis and at the same time write press releases, control response teams and order resources. Take the time to prepare all these documents now and have them stored in a folder ready for use.
Being prepared is easy
- Crisis Public Relations message to give a 'soundbite' to all news media
- Have a company profile kit on hand to give to media
- Premade scripts for employees to use when questioned by media on the crisis at hand, or refer to PR manager
- Equipment & resource lists needed for supply in times of crisis with the purchase authority already approved
- Attendance roll sheets for staff members
- Next of kin records for worst case incidents
- Business Continuity Plan to be able to reduce the time your business is out of operation for.
- Passwords and IT information for backup purposes
Each crisis event will have unique problems to manage, but the initial response and control phase will be similar. Review the range of expected emergencies and look for what processes are similar.
Develop these processes into your so that you are prepared to act within the first 5 minutes of a crisis giving you breathing room to adjust to the unique nature of the latest crisis.
Focus on the actions required once the early warning system is activated and how employees will become evacuated or controlled from this point.
Determine what resources will be needed and have them already in place and ready to use. Imagine what could happen if you didn't prepare for even a single building fire.
"You have all the time in the world to prepare now, but none when the crisis starts."
Learn about Barringtons Online Emergency Evacuation Training here.
Blayne Webb, Director, Barringtons