Discussions about Crisis Management often refer to ‘getting the call at 2 o’clock in the morning’. I have only experienced this once so the reality is that this is rarely how a crisis event starts. The point of this article is to illustrate that crisis events are not always surprises.

Consider a flu pandemic for instance. Experience has shown that notification of the emerging threat is provided before the impact reaches crisis proportions.

What about planned events? The key topic in the UK this year is of course the Olympics. We know it’s coming, we know the risks and threats, we have analysed the impact to our organisations.

Consider also the incidents reported to your IT or Facilities Helpdesks. The first notification may suggest an everyday incident affecting a small number of users but if the problem persists or extends  it may develop into a crisis event over a period of time.

I recently started an online discussion about the Government’s handling of the UK Fuel Crisis. There was merely a potential for a tanker driver strike but nevertheless the decision was made to take some steps to mitigate the risks. It was interesting to hear different and opposing views about the handling of the situation.

With each of the above scenarios the challenge is ‘when do we activate the Crisis Management Team?’ and ‘when does it become a crisis?’ Because we like to differentiate between incidents and crisis events our plans can sometimes delay or prevent us taking the right action until the organisation has been impacted. But surely the prudent thing to do is override this with some common sense and get the Crisis Management Team to take preventative actions to reduce or remove the potential impact. Any decent Crisis Management Team Leader would rather be told about a potential event and have the option to act early.

I always like to include the word potential in crisis definitions to encourage teams to act early.

If you are a large organisation and fail to act on a clear and emerging threat, you will undoubtedly face criticism from your stakeholders and observers so act when you need to.

Some key points to consider:-

  1. Prevention is better than cure
  2. Look ahead to events in the future and take steps to prepare
  3. Analyse trends and patterns from everyday incidents
  4. Ensure the Crisis Management Team are briefed about potential threats
  5. ‘With hindsight….’ This can be a tough place to be.

May 17, 2012 at 10:29 am
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Category: Crisis Management
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