Crisis Incident Management (CIM) is a skill set all Marines learn at an early stage of their career, whether it is standing duty during a situation or working in an operations center during a crisis or assigned to a task force handling an emergency or combat situation. We have all learned that the ability to handle the unexpected and calmly accomplish the mission with minimal damage is the key to success.
We learned these skill sets by being prepared. This includes prior planning, constant training, identifying vulnerabilities, assessing capabilities, and ensuring each Marine understands their jobs and executes them smartly.
Managing a crisis occurs not just in the military but in the government and private sector as well. No matter if you are a government employee or a member of a company or even own your own business, at some point you will encounter a situation that can rapidly turn into a crisis resulting in loss of life, bankruptcy, or “closing your doors.”
“So, are you ready?”
We have all handled crisis at some point in our lives, and how effectively you handle a crisis in the business community is in direct relation to how prepared you and your team are for any situation. Here are a few ideas on how to start the crisis incident management process.
The first step in crisis incident management is to identify how well you are prepared for a crisis. Does your team have a crisis incident management plan? This plan is the “backbone” of CIM and identifies who your key players are in a crisis, what resources you have in a crisis, how your organization will conduct operations in a crisis, and the responsibilities of your personnel in a crisis and many other things needed by your team.
Additionally, it should contain how you will react to different crisis. For example, how does your company react to a disruption of their supply chain? How does your organization handle a cyber-attack or breach of personal data? How will it handle an environmental emergency such as an oil spill or natural disaster? What about a pandemic such as Coronavirus?
The first step in a developing your CIM plan is assessing your team and your business. Who are your best employees? What experience do they have? Where are your areas of weaknesses? These are just a few areas. There are a large number of things that an assessment can and should include.
Next, how well trained is your work force or employees to handle a crisis? Have you conducted any crisis incident exercises, even if just a discussion with your team outlining different scenarios? Training is key but so is exercising your team.
Think of crisis incident management like the mandatory “fire drills” you hold for your employees but on a larger scale. Regularly hold a discussion on “how would we handle this event” (cyberattack, natural disaster, shutdown of key supplies, etc.) Have that discussion in an open forum ensuring everyone knows what to do and how your team will handle the crisis. Use these practical discussions to build and refine your plan.
One final piece of advice in developing a crisis incident management strategy for your team. Understand we live in a 24/7 media cycle and every employee probably uses multiple sources of media. Consistent messaging and responding as a team are key elements in keeping the crisis contained from becoming larger. Be prepared on who and what will be messaged and keep your team informed because, if you don’t, you will have multiple responses being thrown out by well meaning employees.
Remember, you and your team will at some point face a crisis in your business. Prior planning, training your team and understanding how to react is key to survival of your business.
John Halinski was a Marine Infantry and Intelligence Officer for over twenty five years. Retiring in 2004, he worked for the Transportation Security Administration for ten years retiring as the Deputy Administrator/Deputy Assistant Secretary. He is considered a foremost authority on Aviation Security and is a regular commentator for NBC, ABC and Bloomberg News. Since retiring from government service he has opened a successful security consulting firm, S&R Investments LLC, and is the President and owner of Raloid Corporation, a manufacturing facility specializing in sensitive DoD programs. He is married to Jennifer Halinski, a retired teacher, and has two daughters, one who works for TSA and the other is a USMC officer. He enjoys hunting, fishing and travel.