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Adapting to the storm: Perspectives on hurricane response from county, university, and military leaders

Be an advocate for critical event management to improve business resilience

building a business case for critical event management kit

This year at Resilience, Everbridge’s Critical Event Management Summit, over 140 industry experts gathered to discuss how technology is used to avoid or lessen the impact of threats to everyday business.

Critical events such as severe weather, workplace violence, active assailants, and supply chain disruptions can have an enormous impact on people, assets, and operations. Executives from companies such as CVS, Valero Energy, and Alexion Pharmaceuticals came together to discuss how to mitigate the impact of such types of crises. Topics of discussion included the importance of recovery strategies, business resilience and how vital it is to not only have a crisis communications plan in place but to also have a useful technology platform to activate that plan.

As a leader in security, risk, operations, or IT, you already know that when bad things happen, you need to be prepared, but how can you show the rest of the leaders in your organization that crisis management should be a top priority?


Throughout the presentations and ensuing discussions, four important themes emerged – all-inclusive of ways to be an advocate for Critical Event Management at your company:

  1. Become the Collaborator-In-Chief
    Fragmentation between or among departments hinders crisis management and slows response time. Risk management and security teams are increasingly being asked to quarterback organizational response to threats. Taking control to break down these silos, develop a proper plan, and communicate the steps were the recommended actions. These actions can be addressed by:
    • Building a common picture of where risks exist. Think outside of the box and examine all potential disruptions.
    • Evaluating the potential impact of, and the status of mitigation, and create one source of truth so that different departments have the same understanding of what is going on.
    • Pulling multiple departments together to problem solve and agree, up front, on how decisions will be made.

  2. Look More Broadly at Your Responsibilities
    Security teams are at the center of protecting efficient operations and business continuity in many different types of operations, from making sure patients can get the insulin they need in the midst of a hurricane to ensuring oil shipments arrive safely along less-secure travel routes. To broaden your scope:
    • Allow your team to become enablers. Put procedures in place to allow employees to operate safely where the business requires instead of being the people who say “no”.
    • Connect closely to your organization’s core business and mission. Tie your work to the overall goals of your organization and help other departments mitigate or avoid disruptions to supply chains or branch operations which might impact revenue, production, or customer satisfaction. Elevate your team from a cost center to a value center.

  3. Get Accurate Information to Where Decisions are Best Made
    In Stanley McChrystal’s book, “Team of Teams”, he describes a situation during the war in Iraq where he challenged the conventional command-and-control leadership model. By combining transparent communication with de-centralized decision making, officers more familiar with highly relevant details were able to move forward on programs that might previously have remained unfulfilled for weeks due to delay in approval. As a result, there was a dramatic increase in the number of successful military operations that were conducted in a single day. Reviewing this approach sparked great discussion about how to empower employees with information:
    • One Resilience speaker advocated for this type of model for employees in the event of a crisis. It was discussed how if you provide the people who are in the midst of a highly dangerous or crisis situation with real-time information using an emergency notification system, they are the people in the best position to decide whether to run, hide or fight.

  4. Measure What You Want to Improve
    During the summit, industry leaders cited examples of metrics that they pay extra attention to when looking to improve resiliency. Speed is perhaps the most important element of your crisis management plan. The faster the response time, the better positioned you are to take proactive actions to avoid negative consequences. Decreasing loss and downtime can have a huge impact on business outcomes and improving your ROI. Here are some metrics that were discussed:
    • The time it takes to assess internal and external threats is crucial. The less time it takes to understand what is happening, the more time you have to act.
    • How quickly can you determine if any of your people, assets, or suppliers will be impacted by an event? Technology increases the efficiency in finding all your people and assets quickly and accurately.
    • How long does it take you to gather responders and initiate your response plan? Having an automated approach from threat identification to response shrinks response times..
    • How quickly do you resume normal operations? IT downtime can cost Fortune 500 companies $8600 per minute; plant downtime often costs more. Every minute you shave off in the time to restore operations has economic value.
    • The time spent generating reports and making improvements to SOPs can be decreased, so you can focus on what really matters – running the business and preparing for future incidents.

Listening to the many stories from the successful leaders at Resilience, one couldn’t help but be extremely impressed by the extraordinary efforts many organizations take to protect their employees.

Whether warning an individual to get off a train headed to the scene of unfolding terrorist action or booking a hotel room to get a family to a safe location amidst a coup in Turkey, crisis management teams make a difference to individual people, and at the same time, build loyalty to their companies.

One thing, however, was a clear thread. Using technology to more quickly assess threats and put response plans in action, as well as to create a common operating picture of what is happening, can help to improve outcomes for corporations and most importantly, people.

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