Having a team in place to handle potential emergency situations is essential for most social environments, from elementary schools to universities and from small businesses to global corporations. The functions and roles of each member of a crisis management team should be clearly defined. Individuals should understand their responsibilities for the position they hold, their duties, and the expectations placed on them by leadership.
Establishing a crisis management team involves carefully examining the personalities, emotions, and capabilities of one or more individuals, and making sure those individuals are ready, willing, and able to step up to the plate in times of stress or unexpected situations.
Expectations for a Crisis Team
Regardless of how large or small a crisis management team is, each must have a manager. The functions and roles of a crisis team will naturally be determined by the industry or situation, but some of the most basic functions and responsibilities of such individuals include the ability to:
- Manage and lead individuals.
- Manage communications.
- Coordinate with other department heads or external sources for information management, disaster planning, emergency services, and so forth.
- Carefully analyze and assess potential damage.
- Develop multiple resources regarding potential crisis scenarios, as well as options or solutions for dealing with them inside and outside of the immediate environment.
- Carefully track events, analyze warning signs, manage communications, and control information.
In addition to handling the immediate emotions, dangers, or fallout from a crisis, a crisis team should also be able to communicate with all team members to help deal with human emotions before, during, and after a crisis or emergency situation. Team members should also be able to assess the financial effects of a crisis, analyze and determine potential methods to reduce loss of capacity, protect human life, ensure the ongoing reputation of a company, and respond to a variety of events that may threaten the safety or stability of an organization.
Remember that a crisis is defined as any type of unexpected event or sequence of events that may have potentially undesirable or unwelcome consequences. Crisis management solutions and resolutions will depend on the type of industry or field, but all supervisors, regardless of industry, should envision worst-case scenarios in order to develop effective crisis management team members and determine responsibilities, leadership roles, and functions as part of a plan of action to help control or contain an emergency situation.
A crisis management team may consist of senior managers, members of a board of directors, or senior security officers. A detailed job description should be devised to evaluate performance of the crisis team manager and other team members.
The crisis team is responsible not only for training team members and employees how to behave in certain situations, but it must also be able to access and have freedom to contact upper management, boards of directors, and other individuals inside and outside of the organization when it comes to devising contingency plans.
Leadership and responsibility roles for the crisis management manager and team members include setting aside time for official reports regarding preparedness, determining weekly or monthly updates to contingency plans, and controlling and defining the flow of information regarding such planning to both upper and lower management.
Leadership and Responsibility
How individuals should respond to a crisis or emergency is one thing, but actually having them follow through is something entirely different. Four basic factors define the function and responsibility of a crisis management team that must be practiced, understood, and recognized to ensure adequate responses to potential situations.
These basic steps include:
- Analysis. Crisis management teams should be able to define the knowledge, skills, and procedures from an objective standpoint when it comes to training and determining their preparedness or the performance of task members, their roles and functions, and their ability to achieve certain goals.
- Objectives. Training objectives should include instructional plans, practice, and more practice when it comes to emergency preparedness or in helping individuals to identify the warning signs of discontent, an impending crisis, or situations that require closer analysis.
- Instruction. Communication and transparency in a crisis management team are essential in order to ensure that all team members, as well as those they supervise, are aware of how to behave and utilize instruction, practice, and simulation exercises to ensure adequate understanding of contingency plans in a variety of scenarios.
- Evaluation. Team members should be exposed to regular evaluation, performance, and criticism during training drills, exercises, and demonstrations of the way certain situations or scenarios may be handled.
Few of us can guarantee exactly how we will behave in any given situation. However, practice, exposure, and focus on contingency plans help ensure that plans will be followed in a time of crisis.
Exposure and practice to contingency planning is much like the fire drills we experience in schools, hospitals, or other business environments. Such contingency planning goes well beyond knowing where the fire escapes are located. It includes, but is not limited to, ensuring that everyone from low management to upper management knows what is expected in the event of an emergency or crisis situation.
One of the most important aspects of choosing a crisis management team is that its members engender confidence and trust. Management must be able to ensure that individuals chosen to be crisis management team members are capable, willing, and able to perform the duties and responsibilities asked of them.
Such individuals must make sure that those they supervise are prepared and trained satisfactorily. Crisis team members must be able to recognize the needs of an organization and handle a variety of scenarios that may erupt, dealing with them calmly and efficiently.
The Role of the Crisis Manager
The role of the crisis manager is even more precise. He or she must be able to track and analyze data, consider human emotions and reactions, assess the likelihood of damage, initiate damage control measures, and make decisions under stress.
Understanding the basic functions of a crisis manager helps industry or business leaders determine the best person or persons for the job, depending on the size of the business or corporation and its social aspects.
Being a Crisis Manager
A crisis manager must be able to handle a variety of situations and deal with individuals in high states of stress, worry, or fear. All the details of crisis management mentioned in earlier lessons, from identifying and detecting a crisis to ensuring compliance, preparation, proper training, and dissemination of information regarding what should have been done during or leading up to a crisis, are only the beginning. Yet, actually being able to manage a crisis is another thing.
For this reason, a crisis manager must be a strong individual, capable of functioning under stress, fear, and circumstances that may provide unexpected situations or problems at every turn.
A crisis manager should be able to identify and isolate crisis situations and then make decisions to deal with them. In order to complete this task, team members must keep the crisis manager fully informed of situations, potential dangers, and issues in a workplace environment.
The crisis manager is one who will be able to make snap decisions, weigh the pros and cons of those decisions in a short period of time, and act on them with confidence. A well prepared crisis manager will have spent time and effort anticipating a variety of likely scenarios, as well as the results of decisions made to address each situation.
In many cases, the crisis manager must keep certain goals or objectives in mind, including:
Protecting human life.
- Protecting the environment.
- Protecting the financial stability of a corporation.
The crisis manager also must be able to track the progression of a crisis through its acute and chronic stages, be able to take steps to limit or curtail further damage, and immediately begin restoring stability and security to the environment. This is followed by managing the all important media relations that may help protect or at least maintain the reputation of a business or corporation.
A crisis manager should also know how to make the right decisions at the right time, while resisting temptation to make decisions that may worsen the crisis rather than help repair it. This involves an individual who is capable of staying up to date with changing situations and circumstances to ensure that the right decisions are made.
Considering the Human Factor
Any individual chosen to be a crisis team manager must be able to deal with people. Different attitudes, opinions, and personalities require the manager to be an individual with a strong sense of self, though one who is also able to listen to thoughts of others and their considerations and reach a compromise whenever possible.
In crisis situations, many individuals become extremely anxious and fearful. The ability to calm such individuals while at the same time encouraging them to do what they need to is among the most challenging aspects of being a crisis team manager.
A crisis team manager must be flexible and open to a variety of proactive responses that ensure stability, safety, and recovery from a crisis situation.
As mentioned in an earlier article, one of the basic foundations of crisis management is preventing a crisis in the first place. A crisis manager also has the job of finding ways to soften the impact of potential damages in a wide variety of circumstances.
Regardless of the environment, situation, or industry, an effective crisis manager must be able to:
Function in high stress situations.
Deal with a large variety of personalities.
Make immediate decisions.
Manage the flow of information throughout the company or the environment.
Be willing to listen to the opinions of others.
Be willing to share and delegate responsibilities while maintaining control and understanding and analyzing the efforts and tasks of other team members.
Mastering the skills of crisis management and taking on the responsibility and burden of a crisis manager require a strong individual. However, such individuals should also have compassion, understand human personalities and people's responses in intense situations, and even understand the basics of human psychology.