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12 Principles: #1 Effective Crisis Management Organization, Part 1

Arkansas Emergency Manager Exercise Training

Kenyon President Jerry Novosad conducts Emergency Manager Exercises Training for the State of Arkansas.

My September 19th blog post introduced the 12 Principles of Crisis Management.  I wrote that I would be adding information on each of the 12 P’s.  This post addresses the first area – Effective Crisis Management Organization.

There are three key areas here. The first is to set the corporate mind think.  This happens from the top down.  The CEO must be involved, and the organization must resource and exercise crisis management plans with the expectation that one day they will be used.  For example it means conducting no notice exercises, and doing so on weekends or holidays, when they are not expected.  No crisis I have ever been to occurred when expected or convenient.

Secondly, it means writing plans and organizing for response based on functional tasks that need to be accomplished.  Some organizations write plans for different types of events, such as loss of an aircraft at a particular airport.  While the type of event or cause of the event may be different, the consequences are not.  So think consequence management.

Thirdly it means establishing, training and equipping your people to respond to and manage the crisis.  Many organizations call this a “go team”.  I stay away from that term because it is too general and means different things to different people.  Clarity and simplicity are hallmarks of effective crisis management and response.  Organizing in a functional manner allows the organization to scale the response, activating and deploying only those teams needed to manage the event.

The first two functional response areas to consider:

Crisis Management Center Team – some organizations also call this the Emergency Operations Center Team  This team should be located in corporate headquarters.  The CMC is manned by local staff and includes corporate skill sets such as:  leadership, crisis manager, public relations, logistics, human resources, finance, legal, partners representatives, information technology and administrative support.

The CMC sets the tone and manages the incident until the leadership and functional teams can deploy to the incident location.  After on-scene management is established, the CMC falls into a support roll.  It then focuses on business continuity: managing the impact of the crisis on the day-to-day business of the company. Team equipment includes, fixed desks, signage, routine office supplies, computers, data collection and  sharing platform, and communications equipment.

Incident Management Center Team – Incidents are managed from the area of the incident, not the headquarters.  The IMC is often located in a hotel or rented office space in close proximately to the incident.  For multiple incidents, multiple IMCs may be established.  IMCs are manned by deployed staff and include leadership, logistics, finance, legal and communications. Once on scene and established this team takes control and is responsible for managing the event, they receive support from the Crisis Management Center.  Team equipment includes typical office supplies, computers, data collection and sharing platform,  and communication equipment.

In Part 2, I’ll take a look at the rest of the functional response areas to consider.

Robert A. Jensen
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Robert A. Jensen

Robert serves as an international advisor to both government officials and to members of the private sector on disaster management issues. He is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and International Association of Emergency Managers. Learn more here.
Robert A. Jensen
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4 thoughts on “12 Principles: #1 Effective Crisis Management Organization, Part 1”

  1. Brett McLinden says:

    A very good start to the 12 Principles, I’ll be following these posts closely. I just wanted to ask, in highly complex organisations or companies what do you feel is the most effective positioning for a crisis management team? A central team responsible for all departments? Or de-centralised smaller teams?

  2. Loren Zimmermnan says:

    I was a tactical researcher and team leader for the City of Los Angeles; specifically, the Police Department. The PD was responsible for the City’s Command Center which housed one rep from each City Department, i.e., PD, FD Airports, Harbor, Parks & Rec, Sanitation, etc. We handled fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, riots and/or any other calamity that might occur. Within that each Department had its own Command Center. LAPD has a mobile fleet of semi tractor/trailers. We had a mobile command center, communications, supplies, and general offices. We were pretty complex, but during a emergency everyone has to pull their weight, make decisions, be flexible and maintain a teamwork community. Our mobilization was simple because of so much preplanning and standing orders. Every employee is assigned to a twelve hour (A or B) Watch. As soon as a “Tact Alert” sent out, some went home and some stayed. Regardless of your current watch, we were on 12 hour shifts that changed at 6am and 6pm. This helped initial response speed and defused confusion.

  3. Steve Solomon says:

    Great question Brett. Our organisation is multi-national with global airline and Tour Operations operations. Incidents range from local, market specific events to multi market disasters, eg Hurricane Wilma where we had 5000 guests on the Yucatan peninsula, to the Indonesian Tsunami where we tragically lost almost 1000 guests in Thailand.

    The response has to be scaleable so we have structured our CM around central strategy (Gold Team) then for small events local market operational management (Silver Teams), upscaling as required to provide mutual support between Silver teams, but still coordinated centrally.

    By the nature of our operation we are almost always geographically remote from the event site so rapid deployment of on-site teams with solid comms, IT and leadership are vital.

    So, to answer your question; we need both Central and Local teams. the real secret, we believe is bomb proof systems, comms and process. With that in place the leadership team can make sound strategic decisions.

    Steve Solomon
    Director Group Aviation Safety, Compliance and CM
    Thomas Cook Group

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