In-crisis decision making: the authority to act

Get free weekly news by e-mailThe second in a series of articles on crisis management critical success factors, by Dennis C. Hamilton.

Crisis management critical success factor: ‘Providing an unconditional authority to act to your crisis response team’.

When your organization is impacted or threatened by an event that could result in serious injuries or loss of life, critically important decisions must be made within minutes. There is little time for debate, no time to work your way through the corporate hierarchy for approval and most certainly no time to write a report on which to gain approval. The crisis response team must have this unconditional and dictatorial authority to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure the life safety of employees.

This operational ‘authority to act’ is at the heart of all in-crisis decision making and the cornerstone to success.

Authority to act is a safety-net defined as; ‘The unencumbered authority given to the operational crisis response team to make and act on any decisions the team believe are necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of employees; without fear of any form of retribution taken against members of the team on the part of the organization should (in hind-site) those decisions not be the most appropriate’.

Structure and content of the authority to act

* This authority is premised on the understanding and acceptance on the part of the crisis management team (executive management team) that they have collectively accepted the responsibility as the ‘highest level in-crisis decision making authority’ and are accordingly charged with that obligation.

* Members of the crisis response team (as discussed in the first article in this series) understand and accept their collective responsibility and authority as having operational control of all crisis situations, being the first remedial responders to a threat or event, having direct management and control responsibilities on behalf of the organization and having equal authority to the corporate crisis management team in a life threatening situation.

* While the authority to act can be a legally obligating commitment on the part of the organization, keep it relatively simple; there can be no qualifying conditions, prerequisites or exceptions.

* The ‘authority’ is given to the TEAM not to individuals on the team; therefore team members should not be listed as having individual authority.

* It should be signed by the most senior executive in the organization and, on behalf of the crisis response team and the corporate crisis manager. It should be signed annually to reinforce the organization’s support of the crisis management program and specifically, the crisis management organization.

* It must be clear that the ‘authority’ given is only during a time of crisis and pre-supposes that the crisis management program has a clear method of determining and broadcasting that a state of crisis exists.

* The authority should be restricted to decisions where employees’ well-being is currently impacted or is imminently threatened by an event.

It is not the legality of the authority to act that is important, but the trust demonstrated in the crisis response team to make the best decisions it possibly can during a state of crisis. The removal of political complications allows the intuitive capabilities of the crisis response team to respond to and manage a crisis to a successful conclusion.

Author: Dennis C. Hamilton, Hon FBCI, is the president of Crisis Response Planning Corporation, an internationally recognized emergency management consulting services company. For over 20 years Dennis has been dedicated to the discipline of crisis management, earning the recognition and reputation as one of North America’s foremost practitioners and advisors to businesses in all primary industries. Dennis can be reached at 416-500-5517 or

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Read the first article in this series: In-crisis decision making: ‘resolving the dilemma.

•Date: 12th Feb 2010 • Region: US/World •Type: Article •Topic: Crisis management
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