In this issue, we are covering the second set of consequences highlighted in Kenyon’s 12 Principles of Crisis Management. If you missed the overview of the first three principles, please refer to the article Kenyon’s 12 Principles: Quarter One.
To make the 12 Principles easier to apply to your organization, we’re also sending out monthly checklists. Visit our Year of 12 Principles page to download our latest checklist and any checklists you may have missed.
Now, let’s go over principles four, five and six in more detail.
Principle Four: Public Enquiry and Information Centers
The moment an incident occurs, your organization will be inundated with phone calls. As your organization would likely be the last point of contact with the victims, everyone from concerned family members to media professionals will be looking to you for immediate information about their loved ones and the situation. You will have to manage these callers with care, given they will likely be distressed and desperate for information. How do you plan on doing so and how will you provide the information they are seeking without exacerbating the crisis?
The most efficient means of managing this consequence is activating your call center, which you may source internally or by retaining a partner like Kenyon. The call center is typically the first point of contact the families of those affected will make with your organization and should be activated as soon as possible after the onset of a crisis.
Call centers are vital; they are the focal point for making notifications, information gathering and coordination during a crisis. They are also used to manage travel and data management. Effective call centers require technology and sufficient numbers of trained operators; trained in both the hard skills of using an emergency-related script and soft skills such as empathy, care and patience while working with people in crisis.
Call centers should do more than just screen calls and share information. Notification calls to families can be made through call centers once confirmation of victims occurs. Data management plays an integral role in the running of a call center. As call center operators take and make calls, they also gather information. For those who retain Kenyon’s Call Center Services, this information is collected and uploaded into our Kenyon Response® incident database where contacts are immediately associated with the person directly affected. For families and friends of those directly affected who wish to travel to a family assistance center, should one be established, travel arrangements and logistics can be sorted through the call center as well.
How you manage your call center will not only set the tone for your crisis response but can greatly affect business continuity.
Principle Five: Investigations
One of the first questions to arise after a crisis that results in injury or loss of life (in this context we refer to an incident or accident) is “How and why did it happen?” From that question many other questions are born and the only way to find the answers to them is to conduct an investigation. In some cases, automatic government investigations may occur. In many cases the affected company will likely have to support the investigation with technical experts, equipment and logistical resources.
Therefore, it is important that any company affected by an event have an understanding of how the investigation is to be conducted and, if possible, contribute to the investigation as well as conduct their own fact finding where possible. Pre-planning for this should include drafting organizational charts that identify the responsibilities of personnel involved in the investigation as well as the technical aspects. You will also need a written plan that includes the equipment needed during the investigation, checklists for each response team member to follow, as well as confidentiality paperwork they need to sign. Make sure you know whom you want on your investigation team. Ensure they know their responsibilities at the time of a crisis and that they are properly trained to handle the different investigative related tasks that may arise. Consider how you are going to secure records (maintenance, operations, etc.) in addition to how you will analyze and validate findings. Another important consideration in investigations is whether your company requires external support from non-governmental agencies if you do not have a trained team. Identify those experts and connect with them, which should be part of your plan.
Please remember that every accident and incident is different. There may be cases where the government agencies ask your employees to participate in their investigative efforts. Your organization may even be prohibited from playing a part in the formal investigation all together.
If nothing hinders you from carrying on with your own investigation, you will find that conducting one shows transparency and plays a large role in building trust with those on the outside of the organization looking in. It also benefits the organization to have the investigative team on hand to provide an overview during briefs with the family and friends of those directly affected by the crisis. They will want to understand the causes and the factual information your investigative team provides which will help them in the recovery and transition process.
Principle Six: Insurance and Risk Management
If your organization is involved in a significant incident, substantial costs will be incurred. Those costs include, but are not limited to, additional staff costs by way of overtime and resources that may be hired in, legal costs to deal with the multiple legal issues that will arise with regard to the investigation into the circumstances of the accident, the potential for civil and criminal exposure of the organization and its directors and officers; the payment of urgent humanitarian assistance to families; as well as the cost of advisers for crisis management communications and disaster response.
An important part of planning for an incident involves planning for the financial consequences. A significant part of those expenses can be dealt with by insurance. It is vital that your organization is aware of the extent of its insurance coverage and acquainted with the parties involved in the insurance arrangements including the brokers, insurers, insurers’ lawyers and your own lawyers. There should be a minimum of an annual meeting of all of those parties and an agenda to discuss the extent of insurance, the extent to which the organization needs to make its own financial arrangements and who will be responsible for what aspects of the disaster response.
Having these professionals involved in the entire planning process ensures mutual expectations are created and there are no misunderstandings during an incident. It also gives you the opportunity to better understand their philosophies and how they will affect your own. They will have their own ideas about who should take lead in an incident. Will your organization take control of the response, while the insurer provides support? The insurer may well have views as to who should manage aspects of the incident given that its financial resources are engaged and those views may not necessarily coincide with the needs of the organization to protect its reputation so this will be an important part of the discussion.
Similarly, having both your insurers’ legal team and your own involved in the planning gives them time to familiarize themselves with how you plan to manage the incident. CEOs are expected to personally address those affected by an incident and the general public. They are expected to apologize. Legal teams cannot be blindsided by your response if they were involved in the planning stages before it was necessary. Have them coordinate with your crisis communications staff to develop letter and statement templates that all can agree on before they are ever needed.
It is our experience that companies that establish consistent and empathetic communication with the victims and their families, through personal apologies from their CEO, sympathy letters and informational meetings, transition to business as usual faster (and with their reputations intact) than those that do not.
To facilitate success in this area, identify members of your organization to serve as liaisons with affected family members on a non-legal basis who can act as a useful conduit between families, your organization and insurers. Open communication and understanding of clear expectations can assist in identifying issues that have or may become problematic so that these can be resolved in advance of public disputes.
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