Circumstances that create emergency situations can often be predicted and mitigated. However, an emergency situation can strike in an instant. When “accidents happen”, a crisis management plan can minimize incident escalation effects, such as a company’s short and long-term reputation, adverse financial performance, and overall impingement of company longevity. The associated level of preparedness may mean the difference between crises averted and complete corporate disaster.
A crisis management plan and program should be part of all company’s overall strategic planning process. Developing a comprehensive crisis management plan for your unique enterprise can be complex. Planning for managing public perception associated with an incident may be as important as dealing with the emergency itself.
There are a multitude of communication and response details, variables, and eventualities that must be taken into consideration and planned for. Whether a company is a small regional operation or an extensive international network of offices and facilities, designing a comprehensive and effective crisis management plan before a crisis occurs is essential to the continued success of an enterprise.
The following concepts should be utilized to generate an effective crisis management plan:
- Predict: Identify potential threats to business continuity, which can range from emergency incidents to product recalls.
- Position: Agree to the company’s position on potential issues.
- Prevent: Take preventive measures to avert emergency situations and proactively deter negative perceptions, which may include performing safety and operational audits and assessments, and additional personnel training.
- Plan: Prepare a communications plan for responding to all internal and external aspects of the crisis. This may include identifying and communicating with all audiences that may be affected by various crisis scenarios.
- Persevere: In the event of a crisis, proactively communicate company position and initiate other response actions, as identified in the plan. Proactive efforts, honesty, empathy, and preparedness will assist in maintaining company viability and reputation.
- Evaluate: If the crisis management plan is activated, review ongoing results and feedback to determine if adjustments should be made.
The following questions may assist in identifying crisis management preparedness measures:
How vulnerable are you to natural disaster?
Depending on the geographic location(s) of your operation, you may be subject to hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, ice storms, or a combination of these. Geological and meteorological patterns should be examined from past decades and, ideally, the past century.
Based on these patterns, emergency response plans must be developed for the most likely disaster scenarios. Once those plans are in place, an overall crisis management plan should be developed to communicate and respond to the associated impacts of the disaster, implemented response measures, and overall business practices related to the natural disaster.
What should be done for business continuity issues, such as a pandemic situation?
The risk of a virulent outbreak is real and has the potential to seriously impact day-to-day business operations. Business continuity and pandemic planning can prepare a company to react to a potential outbreak. In developing a plan for pandemic scenarios, the business continuity/pandemic response team must have access to the resources, procedures, and safeguards to successfully mitigate its effects and sustain critical business processes. In this scenario, a crisis management team must be in place to address potential corporate human relations and proactively address shareholder communication.
What inherent hazards are present in current operations?
It is essential to have comprehensive prevention plans, secondary containment, and response procedures in place if your facility handles hazardous materials. It is critical, and often required by regulations to have response plans in place in the event of a fire, explosion, oil spill, or release of other hazardous materials.
The ability to quickly return to normal business operations is essential for the viability of a company. When developing an emergency response plan, all potential variables, risks and threats should be identified and prepared for. The crisis management plan should identify and address potential environmental, socio-economic, and company impacts and how to proactively mitigate damages.
What are potential security vulnerabilities?
In addition to planning for potential natural disasters, business continuity issues, and operational hazards, recognizing and mitigating security vulnerabilities is an important step to a successful crisis management program. Whether in the form of a network intrusion or virus, or an actual physical attack, site and electronic security should be taken into consideration when assessing potential threats. Response teams must be prepared with knowledge, procedures, and the necessary resources to respond appropriately and minimize impacts and long-term effects.
The crisis management plan must address necessary steps required to proactively reassure workforce and shareholders of the company’s ongoing commitment to preserve and protect the security of its employees, intellectual property, and trade secrets, and relationships with business partners.
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