Emergency Strategies and Best Practices for Business Continuity
Catastrophically disruptive events can manifest at anytime, with little or no warning. Indeed, there are many different types of threats for which an organization should prepare an appropriate response. In this paper, the author recommends emergency decision-making strategies and best practices for business continuity in response to a crisis situation. An evaluation of strategies used in real-world crises highlights appropriate response levels and identifies what organizations need to have in place.
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Categories of Disaster Threats
There are several categories of disaster threats for which emergency planners should consider. Specifically these are (a) natural disasters, (b) industrial accidents, (c) malevolent acts, (d) data loss, and (e) human error. Likewise, there are categories that help to determine impact to organizations. For example, some disasters will impact facilities or equipment, personnel, data, operations, or organizations reputation. Thus, it is important for emergency planners to have adequate response plans for any type of disaster and impact that is likely to affect the organization.
Emergency Operation Centers
An emergency operations center (EOC) provides central command and control of an organization during a crisis situation. An important crisis resource is an appropriate facility from which emergency operations are conducted. Ideally, this area is offsite, of adequate size, providing suitable furnishings, and easily accessible. Some organizations choose to use a nearby hotel that offers meeting rooms; however, contingences must exist if the meeting location is inaccessible for any reason. Indeed, another popular alternative is remote access tools that provide virtual workrooms and similar technologies. In any event, emergency planners need to have some place from which to work and manage the crisis to it's conclusion.
Emergency Decision-Making Strategies
In a crisis situation, it is very important for emergency planners to have a strategic approach that facilitates rapid action by team members. Inadequate information and understanding of a situation conceptualizes uncertainty in decision-making. How then does an organization help to ensure that it's emergency planners do not experience inappropriate uncertainty? In the case of incomplete information, it is necessary for response leadership to make assumptions based on experience and reasoning. Likewise, inadequate understanding is primarily managed by reduction. Decisions based on understood routines and procedures yielded the best outcome. Thus, to help ensure prudent decision-making, it is necessary for response teams and emergency leadership to be very comfortable with standard operating procedures (SOP) designed to minimize disastrous events. SOPs not withstanding, in a crisis, events challenge decision-making through the need for constant redefinition of the situation. Accordingly, in the absence of continual updates, decision-making capability will degrade over time. Therefore, communication, especially between organizational levels is required to ensure the viability of prudent decision-making capability.
Practical Suggestions for Emergency Decision-Making
It is suggested to leverage the perspectives of various individuals to assist with decision-making. The effectiveness of cognitive diversity assumes commitment to common a common goal and requires leaders to embrace the perspectives and opinions of others. Likewise, prudent decision-making requires a commitment to critical thinking and the finesse to commit to a course of action at the precisely right time (neither too early nor too late). This strategy necessitates the need for leaders to as many suggestions as is practical and to revisit decisions as new information becomes available.
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