Over the past 15 years or so, the world has seen a significant uptick in both the number and intensity of weather related events. Mentioning only a few of the major hurricanes that have pummeled the U.S. alone, we’ve seen Katrina, Rita, Sandy, Harvey and Irma. In the aftermath of such storms, AT-RISK International has deployed our team for a variety of functions and it is timely to mention some lessons we have learned. We hope this blog will provide you with insights from our 14 years of experience responding to crises worldwide.
First and foremost, a well thought-out, well communicated plan is essential. This is not something that can be accomplished as a storm is bearing down on you. In the case of a corporation, pre-crisis planning must occur before notification of an imminent threat. We have witnessed the failures and successes of crisis programs and many of the gaps we have identified were the result of insufficient program planning and testing. By contrast, entities that do both tend to fare considerably better. They can account for their people, help those in need and minimize their productivity down time.
Prior to any event, a Crisis Management Team (CMT) needs to be established and policies and procedures prepared to outline the team’s mission and that of each individual or department. Here is an example of a CMT structure and function:
- Crisis Leadership (Senior Executive)
- Determination of authority for actions
- Identification and vetting of suppliers and vendors
- Communication Strategies (Public Affairs)
- Message scripting and delivery strategies
- Initial notifications
- In-crisis communications
- Post-crisis communications
- Communication technologies
- Evacuation planning
- Personnel accountability
- Shelter/food/water coordination
- Staffing strategies
- Communications (primary, redundant, tertiary)
- Systems configuration
- Shelter in place preparations
- Command centers (primary and alternate)
- Facility closures
- Alternative work locations
- Coordination with local police/fire/EMT/rescue
- Direct efforts to locate, search, and rescue employees and their families
- Facility security
- Asset security/relocation
In today’s global environment, some employees may be living in or traveling to a crisis area. Taking a few precautions can make emergency scenarios survivable. Knowing evacuation routes and strategies and how to personally prepare for an emergency may sound like uncomplicated concepts, but if you haven’t experienced it, simple considerations may be missed. It’s very useful to have a “go book” prepared that contains copies of critical family documents such as:
- Copies of driver’s licenses and passports for all people in the house
- Copies of insurance documents including home, auto, flood and life
- Copies of significant medical documents such as living will, trust documents, etc.
- Maps with local route information for preplanned evacuation routes to predetermined destinations
- Medical information on prescriptions, doctors, etc.
- Contact information for local resources such as your nearest consulate or embassy, hospitals, police, fire, EMT and business partners
If you’ve never lived through a crisis like that of a hurricane, and one is not looming on the horizon, it can be easy to focus on the core business issues and neglect emergency planning. After all, crisis planning takes time and doesn’t generate immediate revenue. But planning and preparation has an excellent return on investment potential. If you’ve already drawn up your plans, you’re a step ahead of the game. Be sure you know who and what your resources are and confirm that they are still your best available options. Remember that conditions and resources can change so be sure to review and test the plans yearly. As a best practice, I recommend a CMT review followed by a drill with employees. Inform your local first responders and critical suppliers of your plans and invite them to practice with you. They will be happy to join you and can offer invaluable insights and experiences to help ensure that you’re as prepared as possible.
Glenn Sandford is a Director at AT-RISK International. In this role, he develops strategies and practices to cultivate relationships with new and existing customers. Glenn has over 25 years’ experience in public and private security and has a wide depth of knowledge across many security genres. Mr. Sandford has authored first edition security procedures manuals, pioneered several highly successful risk management and protection programs, and is a published author.