In the aftermath of the US Capitol attacks, critics dissected the security response – a failure to predict leading to a sluggish, reactive response. And that’s often how we review incidents of civil unrest, through the prism of security operations. But we might be missing something crucial by this limited focus – namely the role of crisis management in securing key assets.
Just last month, there were five named storms in the Atlantic all at once – a rarity last seen in the early 1970s. Nor is the Atlantic the only hotspot for storm activity. The interim Royal Commission investigation into last season’s bushfires also forecasted increasingly “erratic” storms hitting Australia.
For crisis leaders battered by COVID-19 yet still in the path of surging storms, it’s not only time to dust off your severe weather preparedness plans but also to get acquainted with the Incident Command System (ICS).
The custom of political leaders showing up in disaster zones is relatively modern. Formerly, disaster response proceeded with little input from federal agencies (generally) and heads of government (specifically). Instead, they were almost entirely state and local government as well as non-governmental agency interventions.
Eighty-four percent of organisations have a crisis management plan in place according to Deloitte’s global crisis survey, “Stronger, fitter, better.” Unfortunately, they don’t test those plans regularly.
When crises strike, leaders convene crisis teams comprised of internal experts. You know, senior managers with the requisite professional and technical expertise to deal with the critical event at hand.
Everywhere you turn, disruptive critical events are in the news – so too, the companies they affect. Just look at the Forrester report, Take A Unified Approach To Critical Event Management: the study finds that 100 percent – yes, you read that right – of companies surveyed had experienced a critical event in the last two years. That’s not even the full extent of it. Many of those companies actually dealt with multiple incidents during that time frame: the average was four, discrete critical events in a two-year period.
By now, we know the grizzly details of the March 15 terror attacks at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, the deadliest mass shooting incident in New Zealand history. All told, fifty people were killed, and scores injured at the hands of a self-described white supremacist.
By now, most know at least the outlines of the story. In October 2018, Lion Air Flight 670 crashed into the Java Sea on a domestic route from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang in Indonesia. All 189 passengers and crew on board were killed. Weeks later, engine failure forced a Norwegian Air Shuttle flight to make an emergency landing in Iran. And more recently, on March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on its way to Nairobi, Kenya. As in the case of the Lion Air crash, all 150-plus passengers and crew on board perished. The common factor between the seemingly isolated incidents? The aircraft in all three flights belonged to a relatively new line of planes: the Boeing 737 Max 8.
We’ve said it time and again, but comprehensive, crisis management planning, while essential, is only the first step towards crisis preparedness. No matter how brilliant, dynamic, or intuitive your crisis plan is, when the time comes to execute, staff still needs to be comfortable performing assigned tasks. And that entails, regular training in crisis-like conditions. How, then, to create those conditions?
Over the last few years, companies have taken major steps to get their crisis preparedness house(s) in order. For instance, the 2016 Institute of Crisis Management (ICM) Annual Crisis Report found that only half of all global organizations had crisis management plans in place. Fast forward to this year, when Deloitte released the findings of its global survey of 500 crisis management executives. That study, “Stronger, fitter, better: Crisis management for the resilient enterprise,” showed that no less than 84 percent of companies had crisis management plans in place. Not the same sample set, to be sure, but still a major jump in crisis management preparedness. But though companies seem to have cottoned on completely to the crisis threat, they’re not out of the woods quite yet. That’s because the reality of crisis is completely different than the ersatz version you’ll find in crisis plans and simulations.