Whether your facility is comprised of 2,000 or a small office of 5, there is one thing every business has in common—a crisis will occur. A crisis of some magnitude is inevitable; the key, is how you and your facilities management team handle it. Do you react with a calm, level head or are you the person that succumbs to the pressure and loses their cool?
Regardless of how you have handled crises in the past, there is an option to ensure you handle the next one like just another day at the office—a crisis plan. A surprisingly large number of organizations have never implemented a plan to manage an inevitable crisis. In fact, less than one-third could say that their organization had a crisis management plan. Moreover, very few of those managers and executives had been formally trained or rehearsed in how they would handle a crisis situation. Given the likelihood of an unexpected hurdle occurring at least once in a manager’s career, these numbers are staggering.
Facilities management is a demanding profession that requires a diverse set of facility manager skills in order to be successful. The consistent professional, interpersonal and even emotional demands that FMs face on a daily basis seem to fly from all directions.
So as we head into the summer vacation months, don’t be one of those workplace managers scrambling to handle an emergency when it occurs. Rest easy on your next vacation, knowing your company has a crisis plan in place that is equipped to handle any emergency with a clear, level head-one that handles the crisis immediately, before it gets out of hand. Let’s take a look at the most critical steps in developing your company’s plan of action.
Replicate an actual crisis
Anyone can develop a plan of action, but the key is ensuring it actually works. Once your plan is in place, mock a real-life crisis. This can be anything from a natural disaster such as hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes, to a potentially life or death situation such as a suspicious bag left unattended or a potentially violent individual in the facility (whether employee or person off the street). Choose a scenario and act it out, having everyone involved play their own part. That way, each member of your team knows their exact role should a real-life crisis occur.
Enforce mandatory attendance during your mock crisis
It is critical that everyone involved be present for your mock crisis, and that they treat this act as if it were the real thing. Incorporate a few twists in your simulation, such as a local television crew asking for an interview. There are many things that can happen during a crisis and it is crucial your team be ready for anything. Discuss these unexpected developments as a team, devising a plan as to how you would handle each one. You would be surprised at how many circumstances can arise out of one crisis; a group discussion can help your team be ready for whatever is thrown your way.
Communication on every level is critical
Comprise a list or table that includes everyone affected in the midst of a crisis. This will aid you in determining what each person’s role is, who needs to be informed (and how), and ensures no one that is critical to your business is overlooked. After all, the last thing you want as the facilities manager is for your employees or a key client to learn of your crisis via the 6 o’clock news.
Create a command center
Dedicate a space in your facility or off-site that is crisis-ready. Equip the room with necessities such as televisions, phones and computers. This “war room” is where your crisis team can gather to discuss developments, stay informed and formulate your company’s response. Be sure everyone involved is aware of this space.
Assign a spokesperson
Your lead spokesperson may differ depending upon the specifics of the emergency. For instance, you may want to designate your female senior executive in the face of a sexual harassment allegation, while an injury or death should be handled by the CEO. Choose your spokesman wisely, as they are the face and voice of your organization during this crisis—they must show the appropriate mixture of emotion and concern for the event as it unfolds.
Have your team develop a “dark site”
A dark site is a website developed specifically for a crisis, containing all the pertinent information the public should know. Prior to the H1N1 crisis, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department had been working with developers to create a dark site. Hosted by a Google server, the SCCPHD’s dark site was created with minimal design and the emergency site was able to be turned on quickly. By choosing Google hosting, user access was easy and had a wider bandwidth than their regular site. After the emergence of the H1N1 crisis, SCCPHD developed an Emergency Dark Site Template that anyone can access through their web browser. There are several advantages to using a dark site, including: the ability to post quickly changing information, the availability of an alternate site when a standard site crashes from too many hits or a malfunctioning server, ease of use in which companies can quickly prepare and load documents, as well as the inclusion of hyperlinks to direct users to relevant information. Rumors spread quickly-don’t leave any room for false claims and speculation. If you have this site ready to go live immediately after a crisis occurs, you have a better chance of the public obtaining accurate information. This crisis-ready site also shows the public your dedication to solving the issue swiftly and properly.
Measure your success
You would be surprised at the difference your reaction in an emergency can have. Your reputation is on the line and everyone is watching you. If handled properly, you may emerge from this crisis on top, your image solidified. Develop a scorecard to help you measure your success. This will help you see what areas need work and what affect your actions had on others. Crisis Communication has a website full of free information to help you develop your crisis scorecard. Consider these 6 areas when creating your scorecard:
- Composure—How calm did your team remain in the face of this crisis?
- Information gathering-How well did you gather the facts? Was any relevant data missed that would have aided you in your decision-making?
- Analysis-What decisions did you make and how effective where they?
- Reaction-What was your team’s reaction time?
- Evaluation-Using a scale of one to five, how well did you rank in each of the above?
- Success-How well did your crisis plan work? What impact did it have on employee morale and/or the public’s image of you?
There are any number of emergencies that can occur and it is critical you, your facilities management team and the entire company are ready for them all. Your company’s security and image is riding on your team’s reaction. A facility management software can help streamline all of the above. Avoid complacency by simulating various crises throughout the year. This will keep your team on their toes, ready for any scenario that might come up.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in June 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.