Crisis Management: The importance of a Crisis Management Plan

In this article we focus on the first, and arguably one of the most important areas of the British Standard for Crisis Management; an organisation’s Crisis Management Plan (CMP).

In this article we cover the purpose of a response document, what it should contain and how it can become a go to document in the event of a crisis.

Purpose of a CMP

Simply put, the CMP is a business’ “go to” document in the event of a crisis. If a crisis were to strike now, would you or other members of your organisation be able to answer such questions as:

  • What is the activation mechanism for a crisis and when does it kick in?
  • Who is to be contacted for what level problem and how are they to be contacted?
  • Who has authority and responsibility for key decisions and actions?
  • Who will deal with internal communications and external communications and how? 

For key organisational crises, a phone call up the management chain is unlikely to effectively address the multitude of business needs. The CMP should concisely address the above and other key issues so that when a crisis breaks your organisation can navigate the early stages.

What should the CMP contain?

There are no hard and fast rules, crisis management varies from organisation to organisation, sector to sector, however it is recognised that the underlying principles and necessary capabilities remain the same.

The CMP should not be scenario specific but rather be focused on the provision of a generic response capability. To do otherwise misses the point; crises by their very nature are unforeseeable and impossible to plan.

The British Standard on Crisis Management suggests your CMP may contain just some of the following key information however:

  • Key contact details: how staff are to be contacted in the event of a crisis;
  • The activation mechanism for a crisis and how it works in practice;
  • A situation report template which is to be used across the organisation – from practical experience these can be one of the most effective tools for recording information and assessing the required next steps.
  • Details of levels of response across the organization (i.e. who is to be contacted for what level of problem) and a flow chart showing the sequence of actions;
  • The structure and role of the Crisis Management Team (CMT) and what is expected of it;
  • Key templates such as CMT meeting agendas, business critical concerns, action logbooks.

Completed your CMP….what next?

Once the CMP has been drafted, there are some other practical points you may want to consider.

Firstly, has everyone in your organisation seen a copy, read it and understood how to use it?

Although this point may seem obvious, you would be surprised at how often it is overlooked. It is fundamental that your CMP is understood and can actually be used by all members of your organisation when a crisis breaks. Consider bespoke CMP training for key decision makers and or those members of your CMT.

Building on the above, what tools and templates can you create to support your CMP?

Have you considered, amongst other things:

  • Precedent aides-memoire and checklists of key decision points and required actions;
  • Drafting precedent holding statements which can be amended easily and circulated quickly in the event of a crisis;
  • Tools and systems to help manage social media monitoring and engagement;
  • Drafting a list of interested parties and a management matrix; and
  • 24/7 contact information for resources, including spokespeople

DWF have experience designing and advising upon bespoke Crisis Management Plans dependent upon the size of your organisation, industry and means available. If you would like more information about this service please contact Tristan Meears-White.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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Steffan Groch

Partner and Head of Regulatory - Head of Sectors

I head up DWF's national Regulatory team as well as leading the firm’s ‘go to market’ sector expertise. I am also Chair of the UK Health and Safety Lawyers Association.