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Crisis and Contingency Planning

Planning for Crisis, Emergencies and Disasters by Martyn Carruthers

Contingency planning and emergency preparedness are essential - they are not “cheap insurance”, or are they unnecessary pessimism. Organizations that practice contingency and emergency planning are more likely to survive a crisis. Disaster planning increases the likelihood that organizations, especially smaller organizations, survive.

Systemic Solutions offers coaching and training in most aspects of emergency planning. This support is especially relevant to assisting smaller organizations, who often risk more than larger organizations; yet are less likely to invest the time, effort, and resources for emergency preparedness.

Emergency plans are good business sense. Following a disaster, the first organizations "back on line" are often well positioned to create a lot of new business...

Some basic questions for all organizations and businesses are:

  • Which key people are needed for the organization to function?
  • Which key resources are needed for the organization to survive?
  • What could disrupt these people or resources?
  • What plans are already in place?

Fire Plans may be legal requirements. An organization sited on low ground or below a dam may also have a Flood Plan. Some organizations have Tornado Plans, Hurricane Plans and Bomb Alert Plans.

Other types of crisis include events such as loss of critical suppliers, bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy, or threats of hostile takeover. Equally important, and often ignored, are plans for the mental health of staff following a crisis. Is psychiatric or professional psychological assistance needed - or is individual coaching adequate for assisting staff to regain "balance"?

In a crisis, success depends as much on "people skills" as on professional competence. Soulwork Systemic Coaching provides guidance and objectivity needed for crisis environments. Poor "people skills" can threaten careers, and even organizations. Soulwork coaching offers opportunities to improve leadership and teamwork skills.

Emergency Planning can provide unexpected benefits. Creating and exercising contingency plans causes managers to consider the critical aspects of their departments, which may identify opportunities to become more efficient.

Crisis Management

1. Big Picture
Make a skeleton plan or a goal walk or a mind map, and start filling in the spaces. Consider what can go wrong: is the organization vulnerable to fire, flood, tornado, disease, workplace violence, hurricane, bomb threats, the loss of key employees, burglary, computer crash - or what?

2. Critical Situations
Identify which situations are most relevant to the organization, and develop contingency plans for those situations first, with less detailed plans for less likely events.

3. Contingency Team
Select a contingency planning team. Include people with many perspectives on the company’s vulnerabilities. For example, include someone with detailed knowledge of the building and any computer network. Include department managers and a human resources representative.

4. Contact Staff
List all staff names, and alternate ways that people can communicate with each other. Include home phone numbers, pager numbers, non-work e-mail addresses, and mobile phone numbers. The more ways to contact staff should disaster strike, the better. Keep the list updated. Consider setting up a “phoneout tree” that can be activated in a crisis.

5. Designate Authority
Designate a single decision-maker and an alternate. Those persons must know the steps to take in various crises, and how to reach staff and other essential contacts (police specialists, fire department, clients, customers, etc). Inform staff who will give directions during times of chaos.

6. Chain of command
Consider a clear chain of command and authority. Consider military chain of command, or that of governmental succession; and how to apply that for the organization. If key people are missing, who will make decisions?

7. List Vulnerabilities
Make a checklist. Do you work in an office with no alarm system? Might layoffs occur sometime in the future? What if all telephones are disconnected? What if a key supplier can’t move shipments? What if the intranet or internet is "down"? Consider what could go wrong. Many scenarios will be specific to certain organizations. Consider how each one of those situations would affect core activities, revenue streams, customer service and staff.

8. Alternative Workspace
Can employees work out of their homes? Will another company share their facilities until space at a new location is rented and equipped? Get answers now, and be prepared.

9. Backup Information
Most people back up computer data. Where are your important papers and files – both print and electronic? Do you have recently backed data up off site?

10. Backup Knowledge
In smaller organizations, assets may be largely vested in a key individuals. Model the expertise and skills of those individuals and pass it on. Interview the key people and create educational materials. Start coaching, training or mentoring programs of knowledge management. Document and educate staff in that essential knowledge. A Systemic Coach skilled in Expert Modeling, who can model and duplicate expert performance.

11. Essential Resources
What’s needed to keep the organization running in a crisis? If part of an organization shuts down, where would revenue flow come from? What people, equipment, space, supplies, or services are needed to keep revenue flowing during a business disruption?

12. Hire a Coach
As the contingency plan develops, hire a consultant to check the plans – someone familiar with emergency preparedness who can help streamline the plan while identifying critical holes in it. A Systemic Coach skilled in emergency procedures may also edit emergency manuals, present emergency preparedness training and liaise with local authorities.

13. Educate Staff
Once a plan is in place, write manuals and educate staff. Arrange seminars and visits by emergency workers, police and fire officials, etc. Let staff know that their familiarity with disaster procedures will be tested at random times.

14. Exercise Contingencies
Simulate some crisis scenarios. Shut down systems and monitor how staff react. Perhaps call the director of one location and tell them to disconnect from all electronic communication. What happens at other locations? What happens if you shut down a main computer system? What would people do if there was a disease scare? Simulate the loss of some key employees.

Stay current!

Disaster preparedness and response is needed by all organizations, yet is especially important in small organizations, where each person matters more to company survival. Create realistic plans, regularly test the plans with drills and ensure that everyone in the organization knows how to respond.

  • For more on disaster planning and training, go to: Emergency Preparedness

  • For information on Refugee Resettlement and coaching, go to: Refugee Management

  • For international emergency resources, go to: Crisis Contacts

  • For coaching and training throughout emergency planning, contact us.

Plagiarism is theft © Martyn Carruthers 2002, 2009 All rights reserved
Martyn Carruthers served on Royal Navy nuclear submarines during the Cold War. He was health physics and safety officer at English and Canadian nuclear power stations, and Radiation Protection Officer for the Canadian government, where he worked with Public Health and Emergency Measures organizations. Martyn founded Soulwork Systemic Solutions, a complete system of coaching.


If you like our work, please link to us. If you know someone who might benefit,
please mention www.SystemicPsychology.com or www.EmotionsRelationships.com

For online help, email us at: europecoach@gmail.com

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Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you hope for? Know your goals and stop sabotaging yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Learn to develop your inner resources
Do emotions block you? Relationship problems and mentor damage
Do your beliefs limit you? Change limiting beliefs and end dependence
Do you feel connected? Resolve identity issues to recover lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents better manage family problems
Do you want team success? Team leaders and their teams develop together
Do you have complex goals? Specialty coaching, counseling & therapy

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright © Martyn Carruthers 1996-2017 All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was primarily developed by Martyn Carruthers to help people solve emotional problems and relationship conflicts to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work - email europecoach@gmail.com