5 steps crisis preparedness 1

5 Steps to Effective Crisis Preparedness, Part 1

Part one of a three-part series

Being prepared is an essential part of crisis preparedness and incident management, but it seems that a new corporate giant is caught without a clue on an almost daily basis. The current hot topics are just the latest in the parade of easily preventable crises that have damaged the finances and reputations of companies around the globe. In this three-part series, I’ll get you on your way to effectively preparing for crises, as well as addressing common mistakes.

How to Prepare for Crises: An Inside Job

There are five steps to effective crisis preparation. In part one of this article, we’ll discuss the first two:

1. Vulnerability Assessment

A Vulnerability Audit is a multidisciplinary risk assessment to determine current and potential areas of operational and communications weakness and strength, and to identify potential solutions. Any weaknesses in these areas can result in emergencies or crises of varying magnitudes if not corrected. Ideally, every functional area of an organization is examined to identify anything that could lead to or exacerbate a crisis.

There are professional iterations of this process offered by crisis management professionals, but the simplest starting point can be as easy as holding regular “what if” brainstorming sessions at which managers are invited to suggest worst-case scenarios that could threaten the organization.

Then the management team examines, as thoroughly as possible, how prepared the organization is to respond to such a situation and, if under-prepared, what it has to do to get up to speed.

2. Crisis Planning: Operational and Communications

When assessed during the vulnerability process, one prominent West-coast university was found to have no less than six different crisis-related plans, each of them created by different employees without any coordination between the originating departments. The documents included:

  • Natural disaster response plan
  • Facilities emergency plan
  • Fire response plan
  • Crisis communications plan
  • Emergency operations plan
  • Web emergency plan

As a result of this haphazard approach to planning, there were gaping holes in crisis preparedness as well as some significant self-inflicted wounds. For example, during a natural disaster such as an earthquake, different plans would have had the same senior-level staff member in two different parts of the campus at the same time.

In fact, only two types of planning need to be done:

  1. Operational: what do we do, who does it, when is it done, etc.
  2. Communications: what do we say, who says it, how do we get the messages out, etc.

These two are brought together effectively by sharing information internally and then communicating the results outside.

It’s important to remember that the most complex plan is by no means the best plan. Everyone needs to be able to understand and fully execute their roles when it comes to crisis management, so keep it as simple as possible.

Next week is part two, which discusses crisis-related training and crisis support systems.

Jonathan Bernstein is President of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of “Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management” and “Keeping the Wolves at Bay—Media Training“, and co-host of The Crisis Show.

MissionMode’s smarter mass notification and incident management applications enable organizations to take control of crises, and reduce the time and cost of the response. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a demonstration.