When it comes to crisis awareness, preparation and response, are companies positioned to handle a catastrophe? According to a Forbes and Deloitte study that surveyed over 300 corporate board members, only 49 percent say their companies engage in monitoring to detect trouble ahead, and only 49 percent say their companies have playbooks for likely crisis scenarios. Even fewer (32 percent) say their companies engage in crisis simulations or training.
Crisis preparedness starts with acknowledging that, while unlikely, emergencies do happen. The most important challenge in developing a resilient crisis management program is reducing the gap between the firm’s awareness of a risk and preparation for it. Having a Crisis Management Team (CMT) is a good start. When developing and implementing an Emergency Action Plan, we focus on a few key areas:
Preparing discrete response modules.
Segmenting response protocols (i.e., lockdown, evacuation, law enforcement engagement, external communications, etc.) gives CMT members flexibility to deal with unexpected scenarios.
Establishing a protocol to decide when a situation merits an emergency response.
Management must have clear triggers to move the firm from normal operating procedures to ‘crisis mode’ and CMT members must know the preset signals to activate and coordinate the response modules.
Instituting the chain of command.
Crisis demands a rapid centralized response and a very clear line of command. Leaders must have a designated deputy and deputies must have a backup who would take command if the others are unavailable or disabled. This is very important in decentralized organizations where colleagues normally collaborate informally across business lines – crises require top-down authority.
Providing a resilient communications network.
With messages crafted in advance, members should know how to invoke the primary and back-up channels for internal and external communications.
Planning an adequate command post location and backup.
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