Critical Incident Management Planning

Photographer: Ben Blanche

Critical Incident Management Planning

Information, tools and resources to help organisations prepare and deal with a critical incident.

As stated in our Mission, QORF’s primary purpose is ‘to raise the profile, capacity and opportunity for outdoor recreation in Queensland and encourages all people to recreate outdoors’. To proactively address the responsibility inherent in our Mission, we are committed to providing information, tools and resources to the sector on a variety of topics, such as Risk Management, Staff Development, Industrial Relations, WH&S, Governance, Media Management, Organisational Development and Critical Incident Management Planning

What is Critical Incident Management Planning?

Critical incident management planning (or crisis management planning) is the process by which an organization deals with a disruptive and unexpected event that threatens to harm the organization or its stakeholders.

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.  (Adapted from Wikipedia)

Further Definition

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.

(RiskLogic)

“The past settles its accounts … the ability to deal with a crisis situation is largely dependent on the structures that have been developed before chaos arrives. The event can in some ways be considered as an abrupt and brutal audit: at a moment’s notice, everything that was left unprepared becomes a complex problem, and every weakness comes rushing to the forefront.”

Critical Incident Management Planning Workshops

As practitioners who design, plan and deliver enriching outdoor programs in schools, tourism organisations, clubs, universities, church groups, businesses and in many other contexts, we strive to make our programs engaging, rewarding and successful through excellent proactive risk and safety management practices. Unfortunately, serious and critical incidents can, and do occur, and these situations, more so than any other, require a response that best supports, and cares for our participants, staff and the wider community. To achieve this during highly stressful, rapidly evolving and potentially heartbreaking circumstances, requires a well-planned, practiced, and current crisis management plan.

In 2019, QORF in conjunction with the Outdoor Educators Association of Queensland (OEAQ) hosted a series of critical incident management planning workshops., designed for both the education sector and the broader outdoor activity community.

  • The outdoor activity providers workshop suited all outdoor activity providers by using relevant and applicable case studies. By focusing on the operating contexts that outdoor providers engage with (e.g. limited resources to support, casual and volunteer work forces, multiple third-party involvement), participants learned how to optimise their crisis management response. This workshop was suitable for club committee members, event organisers, managers, owners and coordinators who plan and oversee outdoor activity programs.
  • The education sector workshop applied relevant case studies and addressed the unique context of schools conducting off-site outdoor programs, excursions and overseas tours. The operational environment of schools was integrated into the session (e.g. use of subcontractors). It was suitable for coordinators, WHS staff and management staff who approve off-site programs.

Session 1 - Reactive Critical Incident Management

Participants gained an understanding of crisis management theory, including learning how different parts of the brain are activated therefore making rational and strategic thought very difficult during crisis situations. They identified the multiple stages of crisis response and explore how to optimise our organisational response to them.  Participants experienced this firsthand through the conduct of applicable case studies, scenario and press conference.

This workshop, focused on reactive risk management, equipped attendees with the tools to conduct a self-assessment of their own organisation’s crisis management system.

The Unthinkable is still the Foreseeable

Why Critical Incident Management Planning must be a Regular part of our work.

To recap the first round of workshops on Reactive Critical Incident Management Planning, facilitator Dr Clare Dallat produced ‘The Unthinkable is still the Foreseeable’, a document that summarises all the important elements.

To read and/or download go to:  The Unthinkable is still the Foreseeable (also includes a Critical Incident First Notification Form)

Session 2 – Proactive Critical Incident Management

Participants delved into the world of risk communication and analysed the importance of crafting messages through various mediums – e.g. words, images and graphics; all of which enable the organisation to be positioned in the best light prior to, and in the event of a critical incident.

In this workshop, focused on proactive risk management, participants were asked to bring their own critical incident plans to be reviewed systematically – both proactively (what you say publicly now) and reactively (what you need to have ready in the event of a critical incident).

Session 2 - Presentation

Session 2 – Presentation

Dr Clare Dallat & Virginia Mitchell

Facilitator

Dr Clare Dallat
Dr Clare Dallat is the Director of Risk Resolve; a service that provides proactive and reactive risk management services for organisations across Australia and internationally. Clare has a PhD in Human Factors and an MSc. in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management. She is an experienced outdoor educator and has over twenty years of practice in all aspects of the led-outdoor activity domain, including field leadership, program coordination and executive leadership.

More about facilitator Clare Dallat

Dr Clare Dallat 

Dr Clare Dallat is the Director of Risk Resolve; a service that provides proactive and reactive risk management services for organisations across Australia and internationally. Clare has a PhD in Human Factors and an MSc. in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management.

She is an experienced outdoor educator and has over twenty years of practice in all aspects of the led-outdoor activity domain, including field leadership, program coordination, through to executive leadership at one of the world’s largest outdoor education organisations.

Clare has performed subject matter expert duties, investigated serious incidents, developed risk and crisis management frameworks, and contributed to policy development for education and recreation outdoors. She is an Accreditation Council member for the Association for Experiential Education and is an adjunct with the Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems at The University of the Sunshine Coast.

Clare writes and presents frequently on led outdoor risk management nationally and internationally. In 2018, she won the prestigious Reb Gregg Award for exceptional leadership, innovation and contribution to international wilderness risk management.

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Benjamin Franklin

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