Crisis Management ahead of the 2024 summer

Crisis Management ahead of the 2024 summer

6 minute read

Crisis Management. The absolute minimums ahead of the 2024 summer.

There are four fundamental elements we work on with all our clients in establishing simple and effective crisis management arrangements.

  1. Notification, Escalation and Activation
  2. Leadership and Decision Making
  3. Incident Management – maintaining a strategic focus
  4. Briefing and Operational Tempo

Notification, Escalation and Activation

Whether it’s top down or bottom up, escalate or cascade your incident warnings and notifications through your normal management lines of communication. We always tell the boss when there’s a problem right? Your incident and crisis management arrangements should integrate with and enhance your business as usual arrangements. And in activation, who decides if it’s a crisis? You want to avoid subjectivity or varying risk appetites and anchor your decision making to your businesses risk framework. If you consider your highest risk category (e.g. severe or extreme) embed these impacts descriptions into your activation process e.g.

  • Safety Impacts – Fatality or severe and irreversible disability
  • Reputational Impacts – Severe and prolonged adverse national media coverage

Regardless of personal views, when assessing the potential impacts of the emergency against these criteria you can come to an objective decision, and activate your crisis team when you really need to.

We also give our clients similar advice about anchoring their critical functions to their risk framework…but that’s for another article!

Leadership and Decision Making

Conventional wisdom tells us that any one of our executive team could undertake the crisis manager role and exercising in that way (rotating the executive team through the crisis manager role) can be really valuable. But it also makes good sense to pick the right Crisis Manager for the job. If you’re experiencing a catastrophic asset failure and you’re network has gone down, your Network Operations Executive is probably the right choice! Which brings us to the role of the CEO.

The role of the CEO is separate and distinct from the role of the Crisis Manager. The crisis manager should maintain overall management and coordination of the response to the crisis, which of course could be extended in the case of a bushfire. Whereas the CEO will be considering the broader impacts to the business over time, its people, its reputation, the financial impacts, and they will also be the face and voice of the organisation, communicating with key stakeholders, the board, the market, the media etc.

In structuring your crisis management teams, organisations who work closely with the emergency services or Government may apply incident management structures that align with the formalised structures like the Australasian Integrated Incident Management System (AIIMS). But if like most businesses, you’re not familiar with those structures then as we’ve already mentioned, leverage your BAU processes and stick to your existing structures.

Good management makes for good crisis management, it just needs simple and efficient structure and processes that you can activate quickly and easily.

Incident Management – maintaining a strategic focus

At the operational level incident management focuses on functional disciplines like operations, planning, logistics etc, where there’s attention to a great deal of necessary detail. But in crisis management we work with clients on managing impacts and consequences at the strategic level, and to support this we apply a unique model which we call “PRISE”, with crisis managers considering the impact and consequences as they apply to their organisations:

  • People
  • Reputation
  • IT and Infrastructure
  • Sites
  • Externals

This way good crisis management teams can remain strategic, whilst enabling their leaders in managing the operational objectives of the response. And when activating your crisis team, PRISE can easily be applied to existing structures, enabling an efficient span of control. You don’t want a cast of thousands in your crisis briefing room so your BAU span of control can be applied, with the relevant impacts being managed by those parts of the business best equipped for the job.

Briefing and Operational Tempo

Traditionally for emergency and crisis exercises we brought the team together in the board room to work through the scenario, but does this reflect how you operate today? How many of your executive team will be working remotely when the crisis hits? When you plan your exercises, you should consider this. Train how you fight, and consider hybrid exercises.

Having been notified, escalated the activation to the crisis team, identified the crisis manager and convened the crisis team to consider the impacts and consequences for the business, you need a simple briefing structure, somewhere to start. Because there’s few more stressful situations, and you need simplicity and a clear focus for your briefings.

  • What do we know – What are the facts
  • What are the known and anticipated impacts (focusing on PRISE)
  • What do we need to do – what key decisions do we need to make, what actions need to be issued, and importantly who’s responsible for them
  • What are our key messages and who do we need to talk to.

Once you’ve made a start and you’re first briefing is underway, it’s easy to get stuck admiring the problem, considering and reconsidering the impacts and consequences to your business, stakeholders, and customers. But you have to remember your leaders need your guidance and direction and you need to break and share the decisions you’ve made and the actions that need executing.

Consider an appropriate operational tempo and how long you should brief, then break and execute on actions and decisions before reconvening your crisis management team.

Keep it Simple!

The final and perhaps most important thing to consider in bringing this all together in your crisis management plan, is to keep it simple.

No plan survives first contact with the enemy, so don’t overcomplicate things because you’ll need to adapt as the situation unfolds. We work with our clients on the “PoaP” methodology, a Plan on a page.

If those 4 key elements of notification, leadership, incident management and briefing & tempo, don’t all fit onto one page, you’re doing it wrong.

Watch Mark discuss this with RMIA in the Bushfire Planning & Crisis Response Webinar.  

Give us a call, and we’ll help you slim down your plans, structures and responses, and get you ready for summer 2024.

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