• Is it really a crisis?
  • What is its probable impact?
  • How much time do we have?
  • Who else is involved and who is likely to be involved?
  • What resources do we have in place and what will we need?

3. Stay calm.

There are three essentials for remaining cool in a crisis:

  • It’s OK to be nervous. Sports psychologists and athletes have exposed the myth that, if you get nervous, you’ll perform poorly.
  • Try to relax. This is a time when your mind and body need to be in sync. Breathe deeply; talk yourself through the situation; and repeat positive affirmations.
  • Remain calm. Nervousness is OK; panic is not. Work through a process methodically, confronting problems rather than avoiding them.

4. Call your crisis team into action.

Earlier preparation will pay off when assembling your crisis management team. Members know their roles, they are familiar with procedures in the crisis plan, and the crisis management centre is quickly established.

At the time of the crisis, of course, nothing else matters except people’s safety and the safety of their families:

  • Make sure the injured are cared for.
  • Implement your plan to take care of the personal needs of employees.
  • Encourage staff to take time off to check on families and to tend to home concerns.
  • Check for damage to the building and, where possible, arrange repairs. Some staff will want to return to normalcy as soon as possible to work in an environment where they feel safe and protected.

5. Remember: post-trauma communication is vital.

A quality communication strategy will allow you to weather the trauma with humanity, integrity and credibility. Consider the following:

  • All communication should emanate from one spokesperson.
  • Communicate openly with employees. After making sure any injured workers are treated, let other staff know what has happened by holding a thorough briefing, or sending out a mass e-mail or voicemail, or issuing an internal press release containing a straightforward statement about the incident. Employees don’t want rumours, they want to know the facts. It is important to talk to the staff, acknowledge that the company had experienced some pain, but is working hard to return to normalcy.
  • Outline the coping mechanisms which the company is adopting.
  • Liaise with the media.
  • Inform customers and clients as soon as possible to combat gossip and allay fears.
  • Keep your bosses informed.

6. Provide counselling and follow-up support.

Depending on the nature of the crisis, staff can experience wide-ranging, distressing, and emotional reactions. Counsellors and other professionals should be made available. For staff, a critical incident debriefing will help stabilise the workplace after the emergency, hasten the return to work, lower the long-term incidence of generalised anxiety, and reduce the likelihood of litigation.

7. Be a personal support for your staff.

This will be a time when it is even more important than usual to set an example for your workers and to provide support and comfort. Continue to provide clear, up-to-date details, in face-to-face situations if you can – the context will give you the warmth, the tone, the body language. Management by walking around and asking ‘Is your family safe?’ or ‘What can we do for you?’ is essential. Avoid spending too much time talking about the actual crisis and help people to focus on what they have – their health, their future, and their purpose.

8. Evaluate actions and reactions.

Monitor progress continuously so that you can modify your disaster plan and take corrective or pre-emptive steps. When the crisis has passed, assemble your crisis response team for a thorough debriefing; and evaluate the appropriateness of existing procedures.

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