Emergency and Crisis Management

The first of our 3-part leadership webinar series on ‘Emergency and Crisis Management’ attracted representatives from across many different industrial sectors including energy, agriculture, manufacturing, oil, and gas.

Nuffield Group was fortunate to have Craig Lapsley as our guest speaker; Craig is one of the world’s foremost experts in emergency management, leadership and change.

The webinar focused on the “Before” aspect of the emergency management continuum because, as Craig made clear, if you have not undertaken the necessary planning before an event there is a high likelihood the ‘Response’ and ‘Recovery’ phases will fail.

I want to take this opportunity to highlight the key points of the webinar to help attendees (and others) understand how they can improve the relevant Emergency Management documents and approaches in their organisations.

Craig’s insights and experiences provide a great perspective on the importance of the ‘Before” and taking time to plan. Managing incidents in their incipient stages is critical to prevent their escalation to a disaster, progressing to an emergency and finally becoming a full-blown crisis.

The focus of the presentation was a model framework including:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Capability and Capacity (individuals & teams)
  • Risk and Consequence (internal and external requiring understanding and managing the impacts
  • Communication and Governance.

One of the key points in preparedness is the implications of not undertaking planning, exercising, working as a team and being ready. There are many reports highlighting the terrible outcomes for individuals, businesses, and communities that have suffered from an emergency managed poorly and, as Craig identified, the operating environment is more complex and challenging today than it has ever been. The rapid dissemination of information (fake and true) driven by digital media makes the scrutiny on individuals and organisations ever more intense and highlights the importance of looking after the health and safety of people involved in an emergency.

Leadership during an emergency is critical. The emergency management system needs to be owned by the CEO and the Executive of the organisation. The CEO must maintain oversight, exercise stewardship, and take accountability for the development, readiness, and operation of the organisation’s emergency management system. The values and culture of the organisation play a significant role in the way it will respond and act during an incident.

In the ‘Before, During and After’ phases of an emergency, teamwork is fundamental in delivering success, no different to the day-to-day operation of any organisation. It is important for an integrated, whole of organization, approach when preparing, responding, and recovering from an emergency. Siloed approaches are far less effective. Individuals achieve little in comparison to high-performing teams.

When it comes to teamwork understanding the capability and capacity of the team is another key factor. Managing an emergency is different to business-as-usual operations and it is important that there is a mix of leaders, managers, and technical experts to fill the various roles required in the team managing an emergency. The planning phase should identify the capacity of the team to operate under duress, as well as identifying people who have the requisite attributes to lead, manage and deliver technical specialties under the adverse conditions that prevail in an emergency.

Another critical aspect is understanding the risks and consequences an emergency will have on an organisation in a broader sense. The planning phase must consider the potential risks and consequences that will emerge. The direct impacts on the organisation internally, and externally on suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.

Communications during an emergency must be timely, tailored, clear, and relevant. They need to be honest, transparent and part of a two-way process internally and externally, and a variety of communication channels will always be necessary to keep all stakeholders and the community informed.

Resilience is a much-used word these days but put simply it is the ability to recover from the stresses and shocks of an event. Take Climate Change (or changing climate) for example; It’s a stressor and the shocks that occur are the floods and fires we witness. The important point for business is that it understands the stresses and shocks that are impacting it (or may impact it) and develops controls to build resilience.

If you’d like to watch or share the webinar you can find it on our YouTube channel.

Nuffield Group has also produced a short (17 question) Q&A assessment tool for anyone who wants to understand their or their organisation’s readiness to deal with an unplanned incident or emergency.

Click here to have a go, it’s free and takes just 5 minutes: Emergency Management Preparedness self-assessment tool

This webinar series and self-review tool are brought to you by Nuffield Group’s Integrated Emergency Management & Recovery team.

Free Webinar on Emergency Preparedness

Nuffield Group is holding a FREE webinar on the topic of Emergency Management preparedness on Thursday 28th October at 11am lasting approximately one hour.

It’s brought to you by our Integrated Emergency Management and Recovery team (IEMR) and we’d love you to join us.
We’ll have a keynote presentation from Craig Lapsley on the topic of ‘Preparedness’ and an opportunity for attendees to ask questions and participate in a short online survey to assess their own readiness for an unplanned event. The survey tool link will be provided to attendees post the webinar and consists of just 17 questions that will take 5 minutes to answer – a quick and easy way to see how prepared you and your organisation are.

Registration for the webinar is FREE and will take you 1 minute. You can do it here.

You will get email reminders of the webinar date and time and a link to join us. We look forward to your company and a great presentation from Craig, who’ll be speaking to us from the USA where he is currently deployed leading and advising authorities fighting some of the biggest and worst wildfires the country has ever seen.

Is the fire season going to be bad this year?

One of the questions I was asked every year of my career in the fire service was “Is the fire season going to be bad this year”?

My response was always the same. “Every year will be a bad year somewhere, just make sure if you’re at that somewhere, you’re prepared”. Now is the time to act!

There are a number of indicators that are very useful to gauge the likely extent of our annual fire season. Some of these indicators are technical and require a level of expertise to interpret such as the Southern Oscillation Index which measures the difference in surface air pressure between Tahiti and Darwin and the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) which is a numerical value reflecting the dryness of the top layer of soils, deep forest litter, logs and living vegetation. Other indicators are more intuitive such as the amount of Winter and Spring rainfall, the number of warm and windy days leading into Summer and the level of fire activity experienced across Europe and the United States of America which have experienced a large number of mega-fires this year.

The Bureau of Meteorology, provides an annual Bushfire Seasonal Outlook for all parts of Australia. The current Bushfire Seasonal Outlook states: “The Spring 2021 Outlook presents above normal fire potential for conditions over south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales, driven by grass and crop growth in these areas. In Western Australia, the above normal fire potential in the north is driven by grass growth and dry soil in the area. Below normal fire potential is predicted across the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria as a result of vegetation recovering from the 2019–20 bushfire season.

While most of Australia shows normal bushfire potential during the spring outlook period, destructive and deadly fires can still occur during normal bushfire seasons across Australia. Fire potential can vary greatly, even at the smaller scale, between bordering states and territories. Each state and territory’s assessment considers different land-use types and vegetation types. This, in turn, is influenced by different forecasts for temperature and rainfall over these regions.”

Whilst the outlook is a very useful resource and indicates we are likely to experience a number of fast-running grass fires, it does not replace the need to prepare your property or business for a possible bushfire or grassfire event.

So, how do you prepare?

Preparation can be divided into two categories: Property and People.

On your business property 

  • Manage long grass to less than 100mm in height.
  • Maintain shrubs, garden and trees by removing all the dry or dead foliage.
  • Keep access into and around the property clear.
  • Ensure clear access to any water points.
  • Practice good housekeeping when storing materials and products outside particularly on your property perimeter.
  • If you have fixed fire protection features like hose reels or equipped hydrants, familiarise yourself with their operation. All fires start small and you might be able to knock down a fire whilst it is small.

For your people

  • Stay informed by monitoring the Vic Emergency Website: emergency.vic.gov.au and the Vic Emergency App.
  • Regularly brief employees about the current fire danger, particularly on days of high fire danger
  • Maintain regular communications about fire risk with employees that work offsite
  • Practise your response to a grass or bushfire as predetermined in your businesses Emergency Management Plan.
  • Plan for the welfare of your employees and families. Do you need all employees on site on high fire danger days?
  • Consider your evacuation plan and remember the safest option is to leave early.

Further actions for your consideration

  • Liaise with your neighbours to understand their level of preparedness and work together where possible
  • Discuss your level of preparedness and the needs of the fire brigade with your local fire brigade members
  • Review your business continuity plan 

The Nuffield Group has invested in developing its capability in Emergency and Crisis Management to support customers and organisations build safety and resilience into their business. Nuffield Group provides consultancy and support services as part of their Integrated Emergency Management & Recovery Team. Find out more here: https://www.nuffieldgroup.com/our-products/iemr

One of my favourite sayings is “learn from the away game”. We all understand that we can and should learn from our own mistakes but how often do we think about learning from the mistakes of others?

Earlier this week, one of the pre-eminent social media platforms went offline and left millions of people unable to communicate with one another. Users of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger were denied access and it took more than five hours before services would begin to be restored.

On the face of it, we as users simply faced a delay in accessing these services and like many, I expected that eventually the systems would come back online and I would be able to catch up on my daily intake of information. However, this outage had a much deeper impact on some businesses including the Facebook business itself.

People rely on Facebook not only to connect with friends and family, but businesses use it to log into other services including online sales websites. In some countries, it is the dominant means of communication through services like WhatsApp. That an outage can have such a profound impact on billions of people for several hours will give some pause for thought.

Facebook’s own internal services were affected by the outage with reports staff were locked out of offices due to the security pass system being caught up in the outage, and could not access their own internal communications platform leading to delay in rectifying the problem and slow return to full capacity.

The total cost of this outage is unknown however the Facebook share price dropped 4.9% and the founder and CEO’s personal wealth dropped $6.5bn according to Bloomberg.

So, what is the lesson to be learnt here?

The lesson here is understanding where your single points of failure are, knowing, and managing the consequences.

Failure to identify these can lead to dramatic and drastic consequences that have financial, legal and reputational implications. I can attest to this from a personal experience whilst working for an organisation that developed an App designed to notify the community of emergency events as they occurred. The App failed when it was most needed due to a single point overload.

The single point failure was not identified in the risk assessment and consequently, there were no actions identified to be carried out to address the potential single point failure in the emergency management plan.  The recovery from this situation was expensive with significant reputational damage.

Recovering from any setback is a challenge for all of us. Identifying possible systemic failures in your business systems and infrastructure then planning how you would go about addressing these will make a big difference to your business.

Nuffield Group has invested in developing its capability in Emergency and Crisis Management to support customers and organisations build safety and resilience in their business.

Nuffield Group provides consultancy and advisory services and also has an online platform, GNTX, for the exchange of non-competitive information and tools allowing businesses to share, download and modify frameworks and documents for their own use.

Find out more about GNTX here: https://www.nuffieldgroup.com/gntx/