Today's threats have transformed the crisis landscape, with increased scale and interconnections. The impact on organisations of all sizes across all industries has created a collective need to implement robust crisis management plans.
As per ISO 22361:2022, Crisis Management relates to “coordinated activities to lead, direct and control an organisation with regard to crisis.” In more details, it refers to the processes an organisation puts in place to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from a crisis situation that threatens business continuity, reputation, safety, and other critical aspects. Having an effective crisis management programme is essential for organisational resilience, specifically, in today’s perma-crisis world.
What Constitutes a Crisis?
A crisis is an abnormal situation that threatens the operations, reputation, or viability of an organisation. As we have seen in Sudan, Niger, Turkey, Ukraine, Hawaii and Greece, crises can take many forms, including:
- Natural disasters like floods, storms, fires
- Health crises such as disease outbreaks
- Security incidents like terror attacks, coups or military operations
- Cyber-attacks that compromise data security
- Workplace violence incidents
The common thread is the potential for severe disruption, loss, or damage to the organisation and its reputation. Crises require timely and strategic response to mitigate impact to your people.
The Elements of Crisis Management
A well-developed crisis management programme helps organisations to identify potential systemic risks, develop strategies to mitigate them and be prepared to respond quickly and recover effectively. It should contain plans, resources, and capabilities across three key areas:
1. Pre-Crisis Phase
The pre-crisis phase is focused on prevention, preparation, and planning. Activities include risk assessments, monitoring, continuity planning, building organisational resilience, and training programmes. Robust pre-crisis plans align roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, and scenario response playbooks across the organisation.
2. Crisis Response Phase
When a crisis hits, rapid and coordinated response is critical for containment and continuity. Crisis management teams enact response plans, enact mitigation strategies, implement communications, protect assets, and support impacted stakeholders. Leadership steers overall response while empowering decentralised decision-making. Responding effectively despite uncertainty and volatility is key.
3. Post-Crisis Phase
After containing a crisis, the post-crisis phase examines what happened through impact assessments, reviews and learning processes. Strategies are adjusted to mitigate similar risks in the future. Investigations ensure accountability and underscore commitments to stakeholders. Organisation-wide learning embeds continuous improvement. Recovery plans restore normal operations, while supporting those affected.
Key Questions to Ask Internally
1. Have you developed plans and procedures to effectively manage and respond to incidents that may occur during travel?
- Organisations must develop clearly documented emergency response plans and protocols to effectively manage critical incidents impacting traveling employees.
- Plans should establish response teams and internal/external coordination procedures; assess likely risks and scenarios; outline decision triggers and authority levels; define communication channels and strategies; integrate with company travel tracking and intelligence systems; provide for emergency supplies; offer crisis media guidance; and designate locations for traveller repatriation or treatment. Plans should be regularly trained on and updated.
2. Do you have an identified response team that is capable of managing a major crisis? (i.e. natural disaster, terrorist attack, etc.)
- Organisations must retain an expert global security team to manage the response to any major crises impacting traveling employees, such as natural disasters, civil unrest, terrorism, pandemics or mass casualties.
- The team should include qualified personnel skilled in emergency operations, crisis communications, travel risk analysis, data-driven decision making, evacuation logistics, liaising with government agencies, incident stabilisation and post-event support. Adequate authority, systems and resources must be allocated. The team must maintain priority contact access to all employees worldwide and conduct rigorous emergency scenario training.
3. Do you have clear communication protocols and platforms in place for maintaining contact with travellers in case of emergencies?
- Organisations must implement clear emergency contact protocols enabling timely communication with travellers in crisis scenarios.
- This includes check-in procedures and protocols to notify companies automatically if travellers are within incident impact radius; an internal 24/7 response center to field alerts and manage incident response; verified up-to-date multi-channel contact info for all travellers including in-country numbers; trained staff authorised to make emergency notifications; automated tracking/alert systems for travellers in affected areas; and primary/alternate communications platforms resilient to local infrastructure disruptions.
4. Do you test your travel risk management policies, plans and procedures for effectiveness?
- Organisations must regularly stress-check the effectiveness of their travel risk management policies, plans and procedures through exercises like simulated emergencies, post-trip debriefs, security drills, contract fulfillment tests, and crisis management exercises.
- Gaps identified in knowledge, readiness, vendor performance or plan execution should inform enhancements. Key performance metrics should be tracked to identify areas lagging desired outcomes.
Why Crisis Management Matters
Investing in a comprehensive crisis management programme today is an investment in securing a resilient and prosperous future for your organisation:
- Minimise Impact of a Crisis
- Safeguard Employee Safety, Well-being and Trust
- Protect Business Assets and Continuity
- Diminish Reputational Damage
- Enhance Stakeholder Confidence
In today's complex and connected world, effective crisis management is a core element of organisational resilience and continued success.
Learn more about building a robust crisis management programme with International SOS, the world leader in medical and travel security services. Our expert consultants can help assess your risks, strengthen your crisis preparedness, and empower your response. Visit International SOS Crisis Management services to learn more.