Developing an emergency communications plan: A template for business continuity professionals 5 steps to create a coronavirus crisis management response plan

12 key elements of a crisis management plan

Starting or revising your crisis management planning? Include these elements in a plan to make sure you don't leave anything out and your organization can run effectively.

If a disruptive event escalates in its severity and effect on people, processes, property and infrastructure and is likely to continue for a long period of time -- from a few hours to several days -- it has become a crisis, and a crisis management plan becomes useful.

The crisis management plan addresses longer-lasting situations by providing a broad range of guidance that addresses staffing, resources, coordination of resources and communications. This article offers 12 primary elements of a crisis management plan that can be expanded into a detailed, process-oriented document.

1. Policy and organization

Outline the purpose, scope, goals and objectives of the response plan, and explain what tasks team members will perform during the event, such as evacuating people and providing first aid. Identify any statutes or regulations that govern BCDR standards, such as Federal Emergency Management Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and local code. Define who will have copies of the action plan and who will have access to the plan electronically.

2. Evacuation plan

Provide evacuation procedures and detail the staff who will perform the evacuation. For high-rise buildings, floor wardens and searchers should be identified to ensure people are gathered and evacuated.

3. Crisis response strategy

Develop a framework to manage the crisis. This includes roles and responsibilities of team members, a detailed chain of command for the team, criteria for determining the type of response plan and how to respond to specific events.

4. Notification and communications

Furnish guidelines for who is to be contacted and in what sequence, as well as a detailed contact list outlining ways to reach team members, key vendors, law enforcement and government agencies. Roles and responsibilities are defined and listed in the contact lists. Establish a process in which team members can be quickly notified and the organization can confirm their location and safety. List the availability of alternate communications devices, such as two-way radios and bullhorns.

5. Media management

Establish guidelines for managing the media during and after the crisis situation. This can include prepared statements for delivery to the media, identifying primary and alternate media contacts, setting up a meeting place for conducting interviews and briefings, and training employees on how to interact with the media. Similar arrangements must be defined for posting messages on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Consider establishing a crisis communications team to focus on this area when building your response plan.

6. Crisis procedures

When an event occurs, members of the crisis team should convene, conduct an assessment of the event and determine the initial steps for incident management. You should define specific procedures for responding to a variety of crisis situations. For example, the response steps may be different for a hurricane than for an active shooter. Identify procedures to follow in the event of multiple events or if the initial event triggers further events. Provide instructions that are logical, easy to understand and easily navigable.

7. Integration with other emergency plans

Provide linkages with other risk management plans, such as business continuity plans, cybersecurity plans, disaster recovery plans, fire emergency plans, severe weather plans and evacuation plans.

8. Awareness and training

Develop and conduct training programs for crisis team members. Create an awareness program to keep employees and stakeholders aware of the associated activities and elements of the crisis management plan.

9. Testing the plan

Schedule and conduct periodic tests of the action plan, ranging from tabletop exercises to full, active simulations involving scenarios and activation of the crisis team and other third-party organizations.

10. Plan maintenance

Establish a program to review and update the response plan at least annually or more frequently if needed. Create a schedule of activities during a calendar year for plan tests, plan reviews, new plan development, training events and awareness activities.

11. Glossary

Include a glossary of terms and acronyms employees may not already know related to crisis management planning and recovery efforts.

12. Appendices

Appendices are the final elements of the crisis management plan. These include:

  • hazard-specific appendices for different event scenarios;
  • forms and checklists;
  • organization charts;
  • floor plans for emergency operation centers; and
  • contact lists.

These guidelines provide a starting point for organizations. Many components and details go into a comprehensive crisis management plan. Be sure to secure approval from senior management on your plan.

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