Get access to the exclusive HR Resources you need to succeed in 2018.
Sign up for free email newsletters and get more SHRM content delivered to your inbox.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 14 cities across the U.S. this fall.
Gain the skills you need to rise to the next level in your career. Jon us at SHRM's Leadership Development Forum, October 2-3 in Boston.
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
NEW YORK—A crisis plan gathering dust on your shelf is no good if you never run a drill to see how it works. From a liability standpoint, you might be better off having no plan at all rather than having a plan you’ve never tested, a crisis management expert advised.
“Exercising, in my book, is the most critical part of any preparedness program,” said Charlie McDonald, vice president of Crisis Management International Inc. in Atlanta, to attendees Oct. 14, 2009, at The Conference Board’s Corporate Security, Business Continuity and Crisis Management Conference.
If the first person to be called when the crisis plan is activated retired two years ago, from a liability perspective, “you’re in worse shape than if you didn’t have a plan at all” because “an attorney is going to say, ‘is this your plan…and when is the last time you tested it?’” McDonald said.
In addition, exercises often aren’t sufficiently planned and implemented in a way that truly translates into superior crisis and business continuity response, McDonald said.
What Exercises Can and Can't Do
Crisis plan exercises can help identify gaps, overlaps and interdependencies and help players and teams get more familiar with their responsibilities. They also can help validate and improve plans and increase management commitment, as well as help you meet organizational or regulatory requirements.
But no matter how realistic your exercise, McDonald cautioned that, “it will never actually create the real stress, the real emotion—the panic, the grief and those other emotions –that you would experience in a real crisis.”
What and How to Test
A good exercise should test five response components: activation and notification; information management and communication; resource deployment (including people, facilities and equipment); command and control of supporting teams; and incident documentation for legal and insurance claims, McDonald said.
To make to sure your exercise is of value, McDonald said:
Four outcomes are possible when you test your crisis plan and there are steps you can take to address each, McDonald said.
The plan was followed and the response was a success. Consider “ratcheting up” the complexity.
The plan was followed and the response was “a disaster.” Seek guidance to revise your plan and “to make a plan that will work.”
Your plan was “no good” and not followed but people adapted and made the response successful. Think about those who encouraged people trapped in the World Trade Center on 9/11 to evacuate despite recommendations that everyone stay put. Revise your plan using lessons learned.
Your plan was not followed and the response was unsuccessful. Revise your plan and do an additional exercise. “You really have to start from scratch and say ‘maybe we’ve got the wrong people or maybe we’ve got the wrong plan,’” McDonald said.
“If you haven’t worked on this, it’s kind of overwhelming,” said Anne Wills, director of business continuity programs for Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee, who presented a case study. But, she added, “You make progress every year and you look back and [ask], are we more prepared [and] are we more resilient than we were?”
Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Choose from dozens of free webcasts on the most timely HR topics.
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies