Dictionary.com defines crisis as “a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.”

A myriad of unforeseen crisis impact companies across the nation – no one seems to be immune.  What you do in the minutes and hours following a catastrophe will impact on your company’s operation … present and future?

  • Your IT department discovers that your system has been hacked, and hackers have accessed your customer’s sensitive personal data over a period of months (all too common an occurrence, such as data breached for 5 million Equifax. consumer records in 2017, 412 million Friend Finder Network adult dating service members in 2016; and 37.5 million Anthem, Inc. patient records hacked in 2015)
  • Your employees contract a deadly disease in the scope of caring for your customers (E.g., Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas nurses contracted Ebola in 2014).
  • A large scale industrial accident devastates your business and portions on the surrounding community (E.g., West Fertilizer Company explosion in 2013, and Faulk Corporation Explosion from gas leak in 2006)
  • Mechanical or operator failure causes fatal accident in a highly publicize grand opening event (Amtrak, 2017)
  • Employees gathered for a holiday party are ambushed by armed attackers resulting in multiple deaths (remember 2015 San Bernardino County Department of Public Health).
  • An active shooter uses your facility for an ambush attack on a large gathering (E.g., Las Vegas shooting at Route 91 Harvest Festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in 2017)
  • Your company is shut down due to damage sustained from a natural disaster (E.g., hundreds of businesses impacted from Hurricane Harvey flooding in 2017)

Does your company have a crisis management plan?

All companies, but particularly those with large numbers of employees should establish a crisis management plan.  Hopefully, you will never need to put it into action, but should the need arise, you’ll be able to mitigate long term damage by activating your plan.

Elements of a Crisis Management Plan:

Establish a command center and determine who needs to be included (security, information technology, customer services, legal, human resources, government affairs, media relations, sales, marketing, medical, etc.).  You’ll need to establish a protocol for various scenarios.  During a catastrophe, this team will triage the situation and activate appropriate components of the plan based on the situation.

Can you continue to service your clients?

  • Do you have an alternate site where business can be diverted (production/shipping)?

Can you continue to exist (E.g., flood)? If so, how long? How will you pay your employees?

Looking up numbers, and trying to find the appropriate person to help you during an emergency is time consuming.  Compile a comprehensive list of Emergency Contact information, including:

State Governor’s office

American Red Cross

Utilities

Fire Department

Department of Homeland Security (terrorist activities, etc.)

FEMA (natural disasters)

Centers for Disease Control (infectious disease reporting).

Insurance Companies

Bank (ongoing payroll)

What type of resources will you need to call upon in an emergency?

  • Do you have a way to contact your employees and their families with instructions about what to do and where to go? Do your employees know about the plan? (e.g., phone tree, secure web portal)?
  • Gather contact information for medical resources in your local area for each of your physical locations. Meet with chief county health officer in advance of an emergency.  Have numerous ways to contact the health department.
  • Know location of hospitals in your area.
  • Establish relationships with local law enforcement (sheriff and police). Do they know how to get to and into your business (access point for large facilities)?  If it’s a crime scene, law enforcement will be in command of the scene.  You may not even have access to facility.

Create an IT Redundancy Plan.

  • Ensure that critical data is frequently backed up to an off-site location
  • Test ability to restore data from most recent back up
  • Plan for potential data security breach

Establish a Communication Plan:

  • What are your media forums (designated television stations, radio stations)?
  • Who will be the spokesperson?
  • Who will communicate with customers? Who determines what will be communicated to employees?
  • Who will communicate with elected officials (local, state, federal)?
  • What if production is it shut down? Can you get supplies?  Who will communicate with suppliers and customers?
  • Practice emergency preparedness strategies (e.g., evacuation plan, fire, bomb, infectious disease).  This could be a formal discussion with key contacts in different departments or full-scale emergency response activity.
  • If you’re a multi-state/multi-location employer, designate a lead for each location. That individual should be responsible for all local contact information.
  • Set up a call center for employees, media and customers.
  • In the case of a death or catastrophic event, have all facts ready for family, employees, and media.  Treat all with dignity and respect. Be prepared to react early.
    • Mental health counseling (stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD).
    • Notify your Insurance carriers: workers’ compensation or occupational health benefits, property and casualty carrier, life insurance, health

Aftermath/Debrief

  • Establish ongoing treatment needs of employees or customers.
  • Establish groundwork for returning to productivity.
  • Establish an injured worker employee return to work plan.

By: Karen Reagan