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Seven crisis management tips

By Charlie Maclean-Bristol, FBCI

Recently I conducted three strategic level exercises and thought I would share some of the lessons learned. The exercises consisted of two public sector executive teams and a manufacturer.

The following are the main lessons learned.

1. Don’t underestimate the experiences of those in senior manager roles. During the introductions, the chief executive who had had an incident management role in their last organization, explained their incident experience. This then triggered the others to come out with their experiences involving incidents, which were substantial. This left me a little nervous that I would have nothing to add! They ended up coming away from the exercise with a number of actions: so we always have more to learn.

2. I have observed during a number of exercises that teams struggle to know where to start when it comes to managing an incident; and they tend initially to talk in circles trying to ‘get to grips’ with the incident and its impact. The use of an agenda or checklist would greatly help to make sure that teams look at all aspects of an incident and would also give some structure, especially at the start of the incident.

3. Senior managers need to understand the potential hazards their organization can pose to the environment, staff and the public, so that if they are the chosen spokesperson for the organization they can talk knowledgeably about the threat from any hazardous material they store on site.

4. Strategic teams have a tendency to try and analyse the cause of the incident and 'second guess' the tactical team's coordination of the operational teams managing the recovery. Strategic teams need to be reminded that their role is to look at the wider impact of the incident on their organization. A fire in a manufacturing area and a death is not just about loss of production but also about the reputation of the company and how it handles the death. This will determine whether it is seen as a caring, compassionate, company or not.

5. I was happy to see that most organizations had social media channels available for them to post information about the incident and that their communications staff were confident to use them. One issue I saw was the sign off of social media posts, especially, out of hours. Organizations need to have the ability to get posts signed off at short notice.

6. One of the organizations used an external PR company to help them manage communications during the incident. It is very important that the PR company is involved in exercises to make sure that both organizations are comfortable working together in the pressured environment of incident response.

7. Many of the teams I see go three years or longer between exercises. Exercising and training for all teams needs to be conducted more often. This could be short, sharp discussion exercises and training which can make sure that teams are regularly reminded of the issues and tasks associated with business recovery, as well as the regular conducting of desktop and command post exercises.

The author

Charlie Maclean-Bristol, FBCI, FEPS, is director of PlanB Consulting.

•Date: 1st December 2014 • UK/World •Type: Article • Topic: Crisis management

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