Emergency Response

Business continuity and crisis response professionals are constantly bombarded with articles, “research reports,” webinars, and workshops, all claiming to have the eight, 10, or 12 most important steps to take to guarantee a successful response to a crisis. I also have published articles and made presentations identifying multiple lessons learned and best practices; however, I am still frequently asked to simplify and reduce this information down to the four or five key steps to take that will give the greatest chance of an effective response for a venue. As a result, I have reviewed recent response research and talked to several colleagues who have been involved in high profile crisis events and offer the following “best of the best” practices for facility managers:

1. Practice your plan – it doesn’t matter how well written, the plan is worthless if not practiced. And the practice should have two clear goals:

• Rehearsal – giving the response personnel an opportunity to become familiar and comfortable with plan procedures.
• Testing – the only way to know if a venue plan is effective is by testing through drills and exercises and making improvements.

2. Ensure your off-hours notification system works – crisis don’t always occur during normal business hours. If your critical event hits at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, how are company officials notified (Do you want the media informing the CEO that a disaster has occurred at his/her facility at 2 a.m.)? Test and evaluate off-hours notification systems on a regular basis.

3. Choose experience over enthusiasm – In crisis response leadership, enthusiasm is good but not a substitute for experience. Your facility emergency response (ER) leader should have experience responding to crisis events—and if you can’t find an experienced ER professional, get your leader trained. Training can come from experienced professionals at other venues (I have found these folks very willing and able to help), and professional workshops and conferences. Just make sure the training is “by doing” and not just being talked at. This is not another expense—it is an investment!

4. Appoint an “official spokesperson” and get that person trained in crisis media relations – A really great response can be overshadowed by poorly conducted media relations. We only have one chance to tell the facility story, yet some venue officials can’t seem to understand that effective crisis media relations takes special training and preparation.

5. Require your vendors of essential services to have emergency response and recovery plans – you don’t want to have a great response, only to experience a facility business interruption because a vendor you rely on cannot recover.

In summary, I believe that recent practical experience indicates if the above five “best of the best” practices are implemented, your facility will have a much greater chance of conducting an effective crisis response. FM