Do you have a crisis communication plan at your home or business?
Without a plan in place, making important decisions while facing an actual emergency could have serious consequences
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When a crisis such as a weather event, flood or even a Covid-19 outbreak occurs, do you know who to call or what to do?
Crisis communication planning is a tool that helps you deal with an emergency from a place of organization and relative calm. When you’re in the moment, you don’t want to be worrying about details you could have had planned beforehand.
“When there’s water pouring down, the building is on fire or there’s a hazardous materials spill, in the midst of all of that is not the time to be searching Google or through your rolodex trying to determine who to call,” said Chuck Lane, director of training and education at BluSky Restoration Contractors.
Lane has a long history of experience in emergency management and shared the following tips for coming up with a solid crisis communications plan.
Who needs a plan?
In short, everybody needs a crisis communication plan, but Lane breaks planning into three categories:
- Personal preparedness
“The more prepared an individual is in day-to-day life, it makes them that much more prepared for a company/business emergency,” he said.
What’s the goal of the plan?
The more you can plan in advance to remove stress from the emergency situation, the better. The goal of every plan should be to have enough information prepared in advance, and for it to be readily accessible when needed.
“A plan needs to be clear and concise — someone needs to be able to read this quickly in an emergency. Use bullet points and keep it simple,” Lane said.
Another tip is to keep it in a place where it’s seen consistently, or you need to actively share it with the appropriate people regularly.
“People need to be truly educated on what it is and what it’s for,” he said. “If it’s a personal plan, sit your family down and explain why you need to have this plan. If it’s at an organization, maybe check in once per quarter to make sure everything’s up to date.”
What type of emergencies should you plan for?
In Eagle County, homeowners and business owners need to consider wildfires and any type of severe weather such as hail storms, thunderstorms and blizzards.
“As you’re doing a risk assessment or hazard vulnerability analysis, think about how these things would impact you,” Lane said. “What is the true risk from the hazard and how prepared are you to deal with it?”
Lane recommends doing research for information from the state or federal offices of emergency management. Then, take the top three to five things that really concern you that could pose a risk and spend time on how you’d manage those emergencies if they were to arise.
Know who to call
Different emergency situations require different points of contact.
On the personal level, do you know who to get in touch with at your child’s school if the facility were to be evacuated?
Organizations are no different. If you’re in a certain position or role at work and assume you know who to call in an emergency just based on hierarchy, what about if it’s the middle of the night or that person is on vacation?
“There should be a call-down list — here’s who you call if this type of event occurs,” Lane said. “We don’t think about this stuff as often as we should, and deep down you hope it never happens.”
Plan for alternative communication methods
It’s important to plan for events in which communications could become difficult. What happens if cell towers are down? You’ll need to think about alternate ways to communicate, Lane said.
“Disasters can get really scary if you can’t get in touch with your loved ones,” he said. “If you can’t communicate, where would you meet up with people? If you couldn’t get to work or get home, or couldn’t find your family, what’s the plan?”
Crisis communication plans often overlook these scenarios and assume the best. Lane said plans may list a name and a phone number and that’s it, assuming cell phones and landlines will be working.
“Not everybody is going to buy a satellite phone, a ham radio or an 800 MHz radio, but it’s worth looking into at least one other method of communication if your plan A doesn’t work. Communication is everything and we often take it for granted, especially as a society that’s so plugged in.”
Update your plan frequently
One of the biggest mistakes people make with a personal or organizational crisis communication plan is to create it and then let it sit. Once you create a plan, you can’t just check it off your list and never revisit it.
“It has to be someone’s responsibility to review it and take ownership of it,” Lane said. “You need to make sure it’s up to date so you don’t have issues when you need this information.”
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