Three elements are common to a crisis: (a) a threat to the organization, (b) the element of surprise, and (c) a short decision time. It can be argued that “crisis is a process of transformation where the old system can no longer be maintained”. Therefore, the fourth defining quality is the need for change. If change is not needed, the event could more accurately be described as a failure or incident.
In contrast to risk management, which involves assessing potential threats and finding the best ways to avoid those threats, crisis management involves dealing with threats before, during, and after they have occurred. It is a discipline within the broader context of management consisting of skills and techniques required to identify, assess, understand, and cope with a serious situation, especially from the moment it first occurs to the point that recovery procedures start.
(Adapted from Wikipedia)
A critical incident can be defined as ‘a traumatic event, or the threat of such, which causes extreme stress, fear or injury. Critical incidents are not limited to, but could include:
- death, serious injury or serious threats of these
- attempted suicide
- missing or lost participant
- assault, including sexual assault, domestic violence, severe verbal or psychological aggression
- a natural or other major disaster
- major vandalism
- acts of terrorism
- staff member or participant arrested or detained
- damaging media attention
- drug or alcohol abuse
- other serious events
In the event of a critical incident, the appropriate infrastructure – policies, support mechanisms and procedures – must be in place to help ensure:
- An effective approach in responding to critical incidents as they occur;
- Appropriate support and counselling services available to those affected;
- Appropriate training and information resources provided to staff.
(Adapted from the Critical Incident Management Policy and Procedures,
Raffles College of Design and Commerce)
Critical Incident Management Planning is designed to maximize human survival and preservation of property; minimize danger; restore normal operations; and ensure responsive communications with the relevant stakeholders.
Additionally, it is believed that a coordinated response to critical incidents will provide the following outcomes:
- A more rapid response to critical incidents,
- A more systematic and routine approach to critical incidents,
- A method for promptly identifying and supporting decision makers,
- A system for evaluating all critical incidents – providing improved plans to protect lives and property and reduction of liability, and
- Improved management of public information.
(Adapted from the Critical Incident Management Plan, University of IOWA)
Crisis Management is about having the capability to lead your organisation in the effective response and management of a significant event. Prompt and intelligent decision making by a crisis management team can often limit the potential reputational damage, financial implications and legal liability to the organisation and its stakeholders.