Crisis response presents a set of complex challenges that require a continuous updating of resolution strategies and upskilling of those tasked with responding. To meet this challenge it is necessary to consider the key elements of a response structure. In particular, those that can assist the designated crisis team to prepare, respond and facilitate an efficient recovery.

Any incident that involves your business has the potential to become a crisis and negatively impact the commercial and strategic wellbeing of your company.

Recent studies suggest that CEOs and board members questioned their understanding of risks that presented a significant reputational threat to their companies. Both groups equally agreed that crisis response capability posed the greatest threat in factors relating to security, integrity, ethics and culture.

Who is in charge and what is our response?

Experienced incident responders will acknowledge the first questions posed in the early stage of any crisis, who is in charge and what is our response? The ability to answer these questions presents the key elements of our strategic efforts to create a business continuity posture within the business. This effort should be conducted in conjunction with a crisis response structure that engages an appropriate mechanism to manage and guide recovery from a crisis incident. Once created this process will support the overall strategy of reducing the impact, protecting people and resources and minimising the impact on the business.

The key actions that can assist in implementing this strategy begins with the people who are chosen to perform these tasks, they should be deliberately selected and not find themselves in the role either by position held or by necessity.

A guiding principle should be considered in the selection criteria for those chosen as part of the crisis team; crisis response should be role related rather than a rank related task.

Any crisis can demand immediate response actions. Waiting for a designated incident manager may not be an option in all cases. Many ‘ordinary’ people have performed extraordinary actions when faced with crisis incidents; for instance, in December 2019, the terrorist attack on London Bridge saw intervention from members of the public positively affect the resolution of the tragic incident.

Your crisis response team and plan

Selection of a crisis response team should consider the key elements of leadership, personal skills and communication ability. Also, those selected should be familiar with the subject matter of their role. Appointments need be communicated internally within the organisation as should appointments to any supporting role from within the various departments; HR, corporate communications etc. These actions are geared to reducing uncertainty, preventing unfocused activity at the key early stages of an incident and addressing time critical response options.

The preparation of a crisis response plan can assist in completing these tasks, however, they need to be created as a living document that is reviewed regularly and is prominent on the agenda of senior management.

Crisis response also needs to be implemented and practised. Conducting ‘tabletop exercises’ is recognised as a successful method of testing and amending an organisations response to a crisis.

Any consideration of a crisis response strategy will be accompanied by an examination of the cost associated with preparing for an event that may or may not occur. As industry-wide studies suggest that failure to respond to a crisis will impact on the reputation of the business both externally and internally.

Building resilience – Risk Responsibility

The answer to both these risks may be found in an examination of internal expertise and adopting a strategy of taking responsibility for crisis response from within the business through building internal resilience.

This option will deliver preparedness and reduce risk, combined with creating a positive strategy of internalising responsibility for issues of security, appropriate skill development and keeping the crisis response capability high on the corporate agenda.

Combined with appropriate training of the crisis team members, this effort can deliver a competent crisis response team with an ability to respond, manage and recover from an incident. The strategy will also deliver confidence to staff and management while creating a sense of responsibility that is firmly anchored within the business units.

Finally, an emphasis on the importance of situational awareness in the context of informed decision making will assist the crisis team to develop response and resolution options that are reasonable and proportionate in the context of delivering a response strategy that may be reviewed in the aftermath of any crisis.

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