Last week, Regina Phelps presented a webinar, “Leadership During Times of Crisis,” where she touched on numerous topics, including seven essential crisis management skills all leaders should have when managing a crisis.

  1. Gain situational awareness – First, begin by gathering and assembling the key facts of the incident, which is often under conditions of great confusion and uncertainty. It is critical to use multiple sources as some may be confusing or conflicting. These should include media, emergency responders, employees, vendors, customers, etc. In addition to obtaining information, decision-makers must take in the data and “project forward” the implications of the information they acquire and anticipate possible consequences of a fast-changing and still-moving incident, according to Phelps.
  2. Creativity and adaptability – Phelps points out that crisis management requires approaching new problems with new thinking. One key aspect is making sure that diverse viewpoints about the crisis are heard. This requires having a diverse crisis team with a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
  3. Communication – Communication is a staple of crisis management. No one will ever complain for being communicated with too much during a crisis as long as communications are clear, concise and timely.

To learn about the additional four skills, watch the recorded webinar. You can also access the slides, or read along with the transcription below.

Webinar Transcript

Will Penfield:

Thank you for joining us today and my name is Will Penfield and on behalf of Everbridge I’m excited to present this webinar, Leadership During a Time of Crisis. During the event, you’ll hear from Regina Phelps who will discuss the three types of emergencies, seven essential skills for leaders during a crisis, and looking back at past events. We’ll also hear from Scott Clancy from Everbridge on [00:00:30] mobile crisis response and collaboration to minimize business disruption. After the presentation we will have a short Q&A session with our speakers. We encourage everyone to participate and ask questions during the webinar. You can submit your questions by typing in the questions widget and submitting it to all panelists. Also links to the slides and a recording of the webinar will be sent out to all registrants by the end of the week. You can also look for a link to recordings for all of our webinars on Everbridge.com under [00:01:00] our resources section. Now I’d like to introduce you to our speakers.

First up we have Regina Phelps who is an internationally recognized expert in the field of emergency management and continuity planning. Since 1982 she has provided consultation and educational speaking services to clients in four continents. She is the founder of Emergency Management and Safety Solutions, a consulting company specializing in incident management, exercise design and continuity and pandemic planning. Clients include many Fortune 500 companies. [00:01:30] Ms. Phelps is a frequent top rated speaker at well known conferences such as the Disaster Recovery Journal, [CPNM 00:01:35], and the World Conference on Disaster Management. She is frequently sought out for her common sense approach and clear, clean delivery on complex topics.

After Regina you’ll hear from Scott Clancy, technical sales engineer here at Everbridge on Crisis Commander and how it helps organizations mobilize crisis response and collaboration. With that I’d like to turn it over to our first presenter. Regina, you may begin.

Regina Phelps:

[00:02:00] Great. Thanks very much Will for that kind introduction, and it’s a great pleasure to be with all of you today to talk about leadership at time of crisis. To be successful in any crisis first of all it takes preparation, and being prepared really requires two things from each and every one of us. First of all, we have to be in a constant state of readiness. Since we usually don’t know the precise nature of the crisis, meaning we don’t know the timing or the location or any of the specifics, [00:02:30] we always have to be in a state of constant readiness. Think of something like instant on. We must also have a wide range of contingencies at our disposal to be prepared for the many possibilities that can happen, and in some cases, despite our prior training and our plans and our experience and our exercises, everything we have in place, what we do, may not be enough. Let’s take a [00:03:00] quick look at my agenda.

What I want to talk about today is I want to talk about first of all the types of emergencies that we should be planning for, the routine crisis and emergent crises. I want to talk about the seven essential skills you need to manage these events. Then I want to look back at one particular event that we can learn from. Having said that, let’s peel back and take a look at the types of emergencies.

There are basically three types of emergencies. The routine emergency, the crisis emergency, and the emergent [00:03:30] crisis. These aren’t my definitions that I’ll be reviewing with you today. They’re actually from Harvard. I had the distinct pleasure of going to Harvard’s crisis management program about 10 years ago, and the professors there have a really good way of defining different types of emergencies and I think it’s one that our industry really should embrace because it’s really clear and helps us really be able to differentiate from this routine kind of event versus something that truly is a crisis.

Let’s talk first [00:04:00] of all about a routine emergency, and there you’ve got one in front of you. That nice, beautiful, turning and twisting tornado. First of all, routine does not mean easy, but what it does mean is it actually means that it actually is something that we have some predictability, so that’s of a general nature but also it’s something that we can take advantage from our lessons learned from prior experience. If I was to look at your risk analysis for your company, I should see your routine emergencies [00:04:30] already identified, whether that might be things such as a tornado or an earthquake or a hurricane, flooding, all of those things. I would expect that when I looked at your plans, that first of all you’ve actually thought about these things, and I would expect that you have good plans for them, you probably have equipment for them, and you likely have done exercises and training.

Having said that, then what’s a crisis emergency? It’s different, and it’s different primarily because of one thing, [00:05:00] and that’s the term of novelty. Let me give you some examples to go with these actual statements. First of all, the crisis emergency you might be facing is a threat that has never been encountered before, so think of 9/11 as a great example. Two planes hit the Trade Center. If I would have said to any of my clients at that time that were in the World Trade Center that we’re going to have two planes hit a Trade Center during an exercise, they would have thought I’d lost my mind. No way I could’ve done that, but yet, of course [00:05:30] that happened and it was a crisis emergency.

You could have an event that occurs at unprecedented speed. Think of Hurricane Sandy which I’ll talk about in a little bit. Of course New York and that whole region was prepared for hurricanes, but they weren’t prepared for that incredible, fast moving storm with unprecedented speed. Another example is a confluence of forces which in combination becomes overwhelming, and think of Hurricane Katrina. They had of course expected a levee break as one of their possibilities, and of course [00:06:00] they were expecting something like a hurricane, but not together, and so that particular crisis was a significant issue.

Because of the novelties, the plans and the behaviors and everything that you planned for just don’t work. They’re inadequate or grossly even counterproductive, and this is a great example if you look at this slide bouncing back and forth between Irene and Sandy. Many of my clients in New York said, “Gosh, when we were expecting Irene we were all ready and, oh my gosh, nothing happened.” And so [00:06:30] when Sandy began to percolate, they all said to me, “But you remember Regina, we got ready for Irene and nothing happened so why should we get ready for Sandy?” And of course bad things did happen.

A crisis emergency requires that all of us in our field, and regardless of where you are on this crisis management team or in business continuity, you need to first of all sit back and really diagnose the situation that’s facing you. Does it have any elements of novelty? Is it different than the other hurricanes that you know? Is it different than the other fires or earthquakes [00:07:00] or floods that you know? Then what you have to do is if you discover there are things that are really different and novel, then very likely you’re going to have to improvise your response because what you’ve got in writing, what you’ve planned and what’s in your plans are not adequate, and so because of this necessity we have to do things that we haven’t done before.

This requires that we actually are creative and that we are adaptable, and I emphasize that because many of us are very uncomfortable when we have very distinct and clear plans and all of a [00:07:30] sudden they don’t work and our leadership looks to us and says, “What happened? I thought you prepared me, us, our company, for the worst case scenario.” And let me say, I hope all of you on this call remove that statement from your vernacular. None of us in the world in business continuity, emergency response, IT service continuity, none of us prepare for the worst case scenario. We prepare for a routine emergency. Those things that we are likely expected to [00:08:00] have happen. We don’t expect a crisis emergency, and we certainly don’t have the money, the time, or the energy to prepare for it.

The last one I want to mention is an emergent crisis, and when Will introduced me he did mention that I love diseases and my background’s in nursing, and so this is a great example of an emergent crisis would be a disease based illness, or something like a case of malware evolving in your system. These particular crises perform a particular kind of challenge to us [00:08:30] because we think it’s a routine emergency. For example, the flu when it first came to Toronto, or they thought was the flu and it turned out to be SARS, everybody thought, “Oh my gosh, this is a routine emergency. We have flu at the wrong time of the year,” but in reality of course, as it emerged and changed, we all learned that it was actually SARS. What happens is that we actually begin to treat it like a routine emergency. We think we know what we’re supposed to do. Then we often become wed to our solutions and we don’t [00:09:00] see it when it actually changes, and that’s certainly what happened in Toronto and it’s happened in many of our clients in cases of cyber attacks with malware.

Today what I want to talk about in managing leadership and crisis, what I want to talk about are what I call the seven essential skills. Let me talk about each one of these. You’ll see on the slide in front of you I have seven unique topics I’d like to talk about and I’d like to weave the story for you about how you look at [00:09:30] crises in these seven essential skills.

The first one is situational awareness, and let me say to you that this is a really critical skill, one that I find that many of our clients don’t have their arms truly wrapped around. One of the most important things that you can do in any crisis is understand what’s going on to the best of your ability, and that begins by gathering facts and assembling information, [00:10:00] and many times as you know in a crisis there’s tremendous confusion, incredible uncertainty. You have no idea what’s going on. You’re getting many conflicting pieces of information, but these are so important and we have to assess how we’re positioned to deal with this emergency based on the situational awareness.

What I want you to think about now is how do you in your business, in your command center if you stood that up, in your department if you’ve activated your business continuity plan, how do you know [00:10:30] what’s going on? How do you have an understanding about what’s happening? Where do you get your information? It might be from your employees. It might be from vendors. It might be from emergency responders or maybe the county office of emergency services, or maybe it’s the traditional media or maybe it’s social media. What are the sources, and then, how do you get that information, and then, how do you actually display it, validate it [00:11:00] so that people that are in the decision making roles understand what’s going on?

This is a great part of an exercise that you can design where you can give people lots of information and in some cases don’t give them things that are critical to see if they know where to look and how to display it. And I would ask you, do not forget social media because as we saw very recently this month, United Airlines was a great example of not paying attention to social media and certainly [00:11:30] not being aware of situational awareness when everybody else was clearly aware of what was going on.

When you look at situational awareness what you want to think about is are decision makers, and you can think about United Airlines in this case as well, but decision makers who need to make decisions in time of crisis, they need to be able to project forward the implications of the information that they’re receiving. They take in situational awareness, so for example like the United Airlines [00:12:00] imagery that we all saw. They should be immediately projecting forward the implications of what they’re seeing and doing. That’s why the situational awareness is so critical, because we are going to take that information and project forward what our decisions are likely to be, and then once we have solid situational awareness, we should be anticipating possible consequences of a fast moving incident. Again, the United Airlines example is a perfect one for that. [00:12:30] To be able to anticipate and understand what is happening, validating it, understanding it, and making decisions and then changing them as you need to in order to meet the fast moving consequences.

Because once you now understand what’s going on, you now can actually really generate different alternative courses of action. If you pull out your plans and it doesn’t match the situational awareness in what you’re seeing, now we have the opportunity to do something [00:13:00] different. We also then can really assess which of these possible courses of action has the best promise of dealing with the situation, and we can actually categorize them, and we’ll try this number one. We’ll try this number two. We’ll try this number three. Because we now clearly understand what’s going on to the best of our ability and we are now projecting forward. We have lots of different options and we’re going to start working those. What we’re really looking for is for a good understanding of the information once we’ve gathered it, and we want to be [00:13:30] projecting and looking forward.

And of course, what kind of situational awareness did United Airlines possess at that time? Obviously they weren’t really looking at social media because if they were they would’ve had a very different response, because they didn’t really respond at all as we know until the next day publicly. And I have to tell you, I’m not beating on United Airlines. I’m actually a 2.5 million miler on United. I fly them a lot. A couple hundred thousand miles every year, [00:14:00] and I have to tell you. I got today an email about what their new policies were, and you will not believe what was in the subject matter line of the email. I actually took a picture of it for you, and I want you just to look at what the actual subject matter line was. Actions speak louder than words, and you know, I think we all know that by what they did or didn’t do a few weeks ago. What they said in the email really didn’t matter so much [00:14:30] because what they said in the subject matter line said everything.

Our second skill that we want to look at is the issue of how to improvise, because now that we’ve actually gotten good situational awareness we now have to make some decisions on whether our plans work. In a true crisis emergency, plan A, the one you’ve got written and have practiced, probably isn’t going to work and you’re going to have to go to plan B and for most of us, that probably doesn’t even exist. [00:15:00] What that means is that using our newfound awareness, we actually are trying to match that up with our plans and our checklists and we want to see if they match. In a crisis emergency, they’re not going to match, and then we have to determine what kind of customization we need to do.

This is where this presence of novelty really comes into question, because when you line everything up you’ll find that the routine plans aren’t going to work if there’s a lot of novelty. This means that we have to now actually [00:15:30] respond with things we’ve never tried before, so they’re unplanned. They’re not practiced. We haven’t done an exercise about them. But that’s what we’re going to have to do in order to manage the situation, and that can be challenging for many leaders because they’re thinking, “My gosh, our plans don’t work. How do we know what to do next?” And for some people they can find themselves feeling pretty flat footed.

This means that in a real crisis, our leadership often [00:16:00] under real extreme pressure with tremendous stakes and very little time, are going to have to formulate an entire new approach to this situation, so it has the feeling of assembling a plane while you’re flying it because you’re going to have to execute a response or a combination of things and then you’re going to have to modify on the fly. What this means is that our leaders are going to have to improvise, [00:16:30] and again, this is another example of where they’re going to look to you. So if you’re not the leader of your crisis management team, they very likely are going to be looking to you in business continuity or in emergency response or in IT service continuity to say, “What do you suggest? What do you think?” So we all are going to have to step up when the call to improvise occurs.

That means we’re going to have to be very creative and very adaptable. [00:17:00] This at times is hard when you’re under severe pressure and a lot of crisis and everybody’s looking at you. Leaders are going to have to find completely new ways of adapting to these novel situations that are present in this crisis, and there are some things that you can think about when you think about fostering creativity. First of all, you need people to focus on the novelties and really ask, what’s different? What’s new about this situation? That’s really important because sometimes [00:17:30] we think, “Okay, great. I know what an earthquake looks like. I know what a flood looks like.” And we think that we understand it and we don’t look and see what’s different.

Think of Sandy. That happened consistently with Sandy. People were not thinking about what they were seeing. They were thinking about what was familiar, what they knew, so the question to ask is, what’s different? And that could be a key thing that you would be doing in the case of the crisis at your company. [00:18:00] It’s also critically important that we’re listening to many diverse viewpoints and having a mixed group of individuals who have different vantage points and different experiences, because they might come up with the best solution and in some cases the most crazy idea is actually going to be the best one. But sometimes when that comes up, people look at the person who said that and say, “That sounds completely stupid. That would never work.” So when you start hearing things like [00:18:30] that, you better think twice because you want to think that you’ve looked at all of the possibilities, and again, diverse views are really important.

We also want to really systematically look at things and really think about them to the best of our ability, and there’s a way that you can do that and this requires actually very brave leadership. It’s called a team B approach. If you use the Incident Command System, your planning group can also do a piece in part of this, and let [00:19:00] me give you the example of this team B approach.

In the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, when we had our last global influenza pandemic, which was in April of 2009, and as we all know it came out of Mexico. If any of you have been a pandemic planner like me for a long time, all of us were thinking it was going to come from Asia and that we would have some advance notice, but I still remember to this day on April 29th, 2009 that all of a sudden I was on a phone call [00:19:30] that morning, very early, 6am in California talking to one of my clients in New Jersey, and he said to me on the phone, “What the heck is going on in Mexico? Everybody’s got a mask on.” And I thought, “Oh my god. No, really?” As we know, all of a sudden we were drawn into some disease. Thank goodness it turned out to be a very mild pandemic, however, it was sudden and swift. A true crisis emergency.

What CDC did is they were very smart. They actually [00:20:00] developed what was called a team B. Team B was a group of really smart individuals with a diverse group of backgrounds that actually clustered together and they were observing and evaluating all of the decisions and plans that were made by the CDC in real time, and they were actually feeding back to them what they thought was again a good idea or actually challenging those things that they thought were not necessarily as well thought out as possible. It takes a strong leader to be able to tolerate somebody looking over their shoulder and second [00:20:30] guessing them if you will, but in the case of the CDC it actually changed some of their approaches right away and it actually turned out to be a really good crisis management tool, so that’s something you might want to think about if you have a group … Again, set aside. Often in the planning group if you’re using ICS and they would be looking at this idea of plan B.

Then it’s critically important that when you’re looking at being again creative and adaptable that we have really clear operational expectations, and if you’re using something like [00:21:00] ICS, the Incident Command System, hopefully then you’re using and developing an incident action plan which clearly states what are the strategic operational objectives and when you’re going to come back and discuss them and see how you’re doing, and that’s literally what we’re talking about. Clear operational expectations, i.e., strategic objectives, and then tracking those against results so that we make sure that our approaches are actually helping.

When you look at creativity, [00:21:30] what you need to be as part of that is you need to be highly flexible, and so our leader, our team, has to be able to adapt quickly. By the very nature of a crisis it changes rapidly and the first response we start with is not going to be our last. What I find very traditionally in the corporate world is that people don’t like to make decisions with incomplete information, and when we do exercises we make people make decisions of course with incomplete information, [00:22:00] and I tell them, “Look, you have to make a decision. This is a fast moving event.” The worst thing that can happen is you make a decision and it’s wrong. You make another one. Because by the nature of a crisis it’s constantly changing and we have to constantly adapt, and that’s what you want to be looking and that’s what you want to be exercising.

In a crisis situation, our leader can’t fall in love with what they’ve come up with. They have to constantly take in new information. They have to listen carefully. They have to consult with others. Then they have to then [00:22:30] make some decisions as part of that. They have to make those quick moving thoughts as you will as we’re going along, because then we get to the next skill which is where the rubber hits the road. At this point we have situational awareness and we also then have of course, we’ve crafted a response because we’ve improvised. Then of course we’ve been creative and we’ve been adaptable, but now we have to make a decision, and that’s a critical aspect [00:23:00] of these essential skills. We have to make a decision.

Now, of course you’re saying to me, “But of course, Regina. We all know that.” But you’ve all been in groups where the leader doesn’t make the decision. You know how painful that is. Once we have done the first three things, we now are the point of calling the question, and we have to keep moving forward and we have to make that decision. We can make a wrong one. Make another one.

[00:23:30] This is where we’re truly looking for leadership. When things are happening quickly and we’re not really in control of the situation, the one thing the leader can do is assume control. You can’t control the disaster but you can control the response, and this requires the mantle of leadership, and I ask, I beg the people that we’re working with in our client population when this happens, you have to lead. Many times what people will say to me is when you’re thinking about this decisive skill, “Who makes a really good leader [00:24:00] for a crisis management team?” And what I tell people historically is that you only need four things.

First of all, you need strong leadership skills. Secondly, I want somebody who is decisive, that’s willing to make a decision and if it’s wrong, make another one. Third, they have to have a good overall understanding of the business. They don’t have to be a subject matter expert in anything, just a good understanding of the business. And last, and critically important, [00:24:30] is that senior leadership must respect this individual, whomever it is. The last thing you want to happen is that during the crisis your executives come into the space and say, “Who is that person?” Who’s actually leading the effort and they don’t know them, they don’t trust them, they pushed them aside, and all of a sudden we have chaos. So it’s critically important that they have those four skills. Leadership, decisiveness, broad understanding of the business, and respected by senior leadership, because what we’re looking for [00:25:00] in one of our essential skills is decisiveness.

Once we’ve made the decision now it’s time to act, and at this point what we’re doing is the rubber is hitting the road. We’ve made the decision based on the three other factors, and now what we’re doing is that we’re literally enacting our plans that many times were written right that moment and we’re standing back as we’re implementing them and we’re constantly looking at the response. We want to make sure, and this is critically important, that you have really good feedback [00:25:30] loops to actually assess that you’re actually meeting the plan, and again what I would say to you is if you do not currently develop an incident action plans, I would highly encourage you to do that. I’ll be talking about that next month in a webinar for Everbridge.

An incident action plan is really a driver for this because it helps you with this whole concept of action, but simply think of it as being three things. Clear documentation of your current status. Clearly written strategic objectives with assignments [00:26:00] for each one of them. Then lastly what’s called the operational period, which is how soon you come back to connect with each other. That should be a hallmark of your whole aspect of action.

One of the things that can come up at this point when we’re actually enacting our plans is something that’s called cognitive bias. I want to talk briefly about that because in our field it can be rampant at time of crisis. Let me talk a little bit about what that is.

Cognitive bias is … Literally [00:26:30] it’s a deviation from what was called rational thinking or good judgment, and it really can appear in crisis situations. I’ve seen it in myself, embarrassingly so. I’ve seen it in every command center I’ve ever been in. Let me give you some examples, and what I would ask you to do is that when you hear these, I want you to think about your own experience, events that you’ve been in, command centers that you’ve been in, and see what you might have seen before in your own history. The last thing that you want to have is somebody there that thinks they know [00:27:00] it all, and that’s the deadly sin of been there and done that. I saw that a lot in Hurricane Sandy with my clients because they all thought they knew what a hurricane looked like. They all had gotten ready for Irene. They all thought it was crazy, and they were taking their experience and they thought just too much of it. They thought they knew it all.

I’ve been in practice for 35 years and I’ll tell you, I have to really reign that in on some occasions when I’m dealing with a particular event because if I start thinking that way [00:27:30] I am dead in the water, and I would say that for all of us. Sometimes people give you the illusion of experience. They act like they have a lot of experience but they actually don’t have any or they have little, and therefore we might actually be wrapped up in a situation with somebody that we think is more experienced than they are. Sometimes people are really overconfident, and it’s almost like they think they can foretell the future or that they’re able to manage the event single handed. [00:28:00] Overconfidence and being a hyperinflated ego is not what you want in a crisis. I want a solid, grounded person.

One of my favorites is the failure to observe or actually believe disconfirming evidence. This actually happened many, many times in Hurricane Katrina, and one of the classic ones is when the emergency operations center in the city of New Orleans, all were observing their televisions and when the levees began to fail, no one believed it. [00:28:30] Now, that’s hard to imagine. It’s television and the levees are failing and water is flooding into the Ninth Ward. The command center just didn’t believe it. That can’t be happening. They couldn’t actually even believe their own eyes. They failed to observe what was clearly in front of them. Again, because they were just too wrapped up in their plans.

Sometimes there’s an escalation of commitment. When people realize what they’re doing doesn’t work, sometimes instead of actually rethinking it or maybe doing something different, they double [00:29:00] down. Then all of a sudden now we’re committing more resources to something that’s not working. Another version of that can be the bandwagon effect where everybody thinks, “Oh my gosh, yeah. Regina knows what she’s doing. Jane knows what she’s doing.” And we all jump on and we don’t question. That’s almost a little bit like the idea of the Bay of Pigs when we had the group think experience where everybody began to believe the same thing without really critically evaluating [00:29:30] it.

Another example is a migration of objectives where all of a sudden the objectives begin to shift and we begin to take everything personally and we’re not actually being objective in our actual response. Cognitive bias can be present anywhere in a crisis. Very commonly present in a emergency operations center, and each and every one of us have the possibility of actually having that ourself.

How do you respond to some of this cognitive bias? Well, they’re constantly there, so just know that [00:30:00] right off the top of your head. How do you deal with them when they’re in play? Sometimes I’ve had people actually rotate teams or move folks around when they actually are too prone to cognitive bias. It’s very helpful to provide training and guidance about what it is, and sometimes there can be some procedures and rules that you can do to help manage that. For example sometimes again having a team B approach might be sometimes you might consider. A group of advisors that consult with a leader so that we again aren’t displaying [00:30:30] or acting on our own cognitive bias, but it’s a critical issue and I think all of us should be aware of it because each and every one of us on this webinar have the opportunity to display it ourself.

Then we get to the next one. Critically important. Communication. What we’re looking for in a crisis is clear, crisp, and timely communication. Never once in my professional career have I had anybody say to me, “Gosh, we communicated too much.” Never. But you need realistic expectations and you need [00:31:00] to communicate early and often. You don’t want to alarm people, but don’t be afraid to talk about how bad it is, because remember. In social media, people are watching the levee break. They’re looking at the tornado bearing down on them. We see things in many cases in real time, so be honest, be frank, be clear, be transparent, and communicate, and use all forms of communication possible. I want to emphasize social media. I’ve talked about social media extensively for about 10 years, and I think after United Airlines [00:31:30] I’ll never have to talk about it again because we all understand the deadly nature of every person in the world being a reporter and every single person being able to post what’s happening at our company in real time up for the entire world to see.

One of the things I hope that all of you have when you look at your communication plan is that you’ve really thought through developing a solid communication crisis plan, and one of the things you want to make sure that you’ve identified is this. I [00:32:00] would love to see if you asked me to audit your communication plan, that it had several key parts. One is that you’ve clearly identified every stakeholder. So employees, customers, regulators. List all of them. Who are your key stakeholders?

You want to figure out first of all what the key message is going to be to each and every one of them. Now you may say, “But Regina, I don’t even know what the crisis is.” Well yes, I know that you don’t know that, but I can tell you what. You can probably figure out in a fairly short sentence or two [00:32:30] what you would say to people initially. That you know that there’s an issue, that you’re investigating. You’re working with emergency responders if that’s applicable, and you’re going to get back to them as soon as you can. There are some basic things that you can say. You should have those in writing. They should be approved by your legal and executive teams, and just with a slight bit of tweaking, it can go out.

You should know what all the tools are you’re going to use for communication, so whether you’re using email or your website or your emergency notification [00:33:00] system, or whatever your tools are. I would love to see that you would tell me exactly what tools do you use for your employees? What tools do you use for your customers? How about your investor community? What about your regulators? What about your board of directors? I would want to see that.

Then lastly I would want to know who owns that relationship. Who are the communicators with those stakeholders? An example would be if it’s employees, it very likely could be HR. It could be their managers. But identify that. Actually this is a very interesting and fun whiteboard activity to do [00:33:30] and one that’s really important when you’re actually looking at getting your arms around how to communicate quickly in a crisis, because people don’t do this and they don’t get it.

Lastly, in my seven skills, now what we want to do is we want to reevaluate. This is really important because if you don’t do this well, you’re likely to be continuing to make mistakes or you’re not going to be able to solve your situation because you don’t have a sufficient feedback loop, and again that’s where the incident action planning process is so [00:34:00] important. You need to have regular intervals to reevaluate what you’re doing and your progress. In the Incident Command System this is called an operational period which means how long you’re going to work on your plan before you come back together to assess progress.

This whole constant reevaluation and these preset intervals allows you basically to tweak your plan or to do a huge overhaul if it’s not working. This is really critical and needs to be done on an ongoing basis throughout the time of the crisis. This is also [00:34:30] where your team B folks can chime in about what’s going on, and they can answer the question really, how are we doing or what’s missing? What I would want to say to you, even if you’re not using the team B approach, this is something as a continuity professional you should constantly be evaluating and asking yourself, how are we doing and what are we missing? Because this goes back to again the question of novelty.

You always want to be thinking about cognitive bias. If we think we’re really doing a great job, I would say, “Wow, let’s think about [00:35:00] this because maybe we have a lot of cognitive bias. We’re overconfident.” Think about that, and you also want to be constantly measuring performance. Again, that’s where having clearly written objectives are helpful because you can see if you’re actually making progress on those. At that point once we’ve done all those things, then at this point we can either recommit to our objectives and possibly write new ones, or we’re going to redesign them and literally almost start over if you will if we need to. That’s what reevaluation is all about. [00:35:30] Then what we keep doing is keep moving the team, the plans, and the recovery forward. That’s our job. That’s what we do for a living. All the things I mentioned, and then we keep moving it forward.

I want to look back at an event of recent history that’s one that’s probably affected maybe many of you on this call. I’m not sure. That’s Hurricane Sandy because it’s a great example of looking at these seven essential skills of crisis leadership and what worked [00:36:00] and what didn’t work. Just to remind you, Sandy early on started to form actually on October 22nd of 2012, and it was actually blazing through the Caribbean and through a variety of islands, and the east coast really started to pay attention, so it started if you will on the 22, but by the 25th people were beginning to really seriously be concerned about Sandy.

What was [00:36:30] really interesting to me, and I’m really embarrassed to tell you this. I didn’t realize at that time that there were seven major models of hurricanes and that there were two very distinct ones that were in Europe and there were five models that were based in the US, and that the European models began to actually have a very different landfall model. That caused a lot of disbelief and a lot of confusion because the US based models were estimating that Hurricane Sandy would literally blow out [00:37:00] east of the New York area and would actually go into the Atlantic. However the European models were all saying, “Oh, no no no no no. It’s going to turn west and it’s going to hit New York head on.” This made a lot of confusion and people began to hope and their cognitive bias was that it wasn’t going to hit them.

But by the 28th of October of 2012, there was a 90% chance that actually Sandy was going to hit New Jersey and New York head on, and this started to get people’s attention [00:37:30] but it was kind of late because many of my clients, as I mentioned earlier, I’m embarrassed to say, were already saying to themselves, “But we got ready for Irene and we’re not going to do that because we don’t think Sandy’s going to hit,” but of course as we all know Sandy hit on October 29th at 8pm, and just stop and think about this. When it actually hit, it had already been downgraded. It was a tropical storm. It wasn’t even a hurricane level one. It was a tropical storm, and that’s amazing when you think about the kind of damage that it had. [00:38:00] The kind of tracking that it had was just classic. It shot up the eastern seaboard and then when it had the opportunity to turn east, it didn’t. It actually turned west, a hard left if you will, and literally hit New Jersey head on.

There are lots of superlatives about Sandy that are always interesting to chat about. I love this photograph. Can you imagine all those cabs underwater in Manhattan? It was the deadliest and most destructive storm of the 2012 Atlantic [00:38:30] season and it’s the second most costly hurricane in the United States behind Katrina. Believe it or not they still have not gotten all of the final estimates on insurance and payments, which are still ongoing for some people, and there’s a lot of belief in the insurance industry that Sandy will actually be the most costly hurricane in the United States in the next couple of years once probably all of the data has been finally tabulated, so it’s just a little bit right now behind Katrina, [00:39:00] $75 billion to $81 billion, and very likely is going to surpass that, so we’re talking about something with phenomenal impact.

A huge storm that at one point measured 1,100 miles from Florida to Canada, which is hard to fathom, and a third of the country was actually impacted. There was the largest widespread power outage in the history of the United States based on Sandy.

It affected 24 states. Millions of people without power [00:39:30] and many homes and businesses destroyed. Now, what’s also amazing is there wasn’t many people that died. Only 72 deaths in the US and 285 total, which when you think about the destruction I just mentioned is amazing. It was just really fortuitous in so many ways. Amazing statistics about the impact to the entire United States.

I love this image. This is actually a subway station where the water is pouring down an elevator shaft and filling the actual [00:40:00] subway itself. Over 13,000 flights were canceled. That’s the most in the history of the United States, with the exception of 9/11. They canceled 13,000 total … Total [inaudible 00:40:15] was almost 20,000. There were 13,000 on the 29th. Another 3,500 on the 30th, and all told almost 20,000 flights were canceled. I spent a lot of time lost on that particular few days being not able [00:40:30] to get around where I was supposed to be. Public transit throughout the entire region was halted. Subways, trains, which is a huge form of transit in the east coast.

The Exchange was even closed for two days, which again is a huge issue, and four hospitals were actually evacuated in the middle of the storm when they all lost power. They were originally told to shelter in place, and they actually had to evacuate in the middle of the storm and in cases with no power, and what you’re seeing there is the actual New York University Langone [00:41:00] Medical Center where they’re actually transporting patients out of their ICU down the stairs with no power and flashlights in people’s mouths.

The successes from a leadership perspective in this particular disaster were actually two things. First of all, there was no deaths or serious impact from those hospital evacuations which is actually phenomenal when you think about it. Evacuating hundreds and hundreds of people, many of them critically ill and many of them on ventilators. Amazing, and there were very [00:41:30] minimal deaths in the region, which again is quite amazing.

There were lots of failures however. Many businesses didn’t take it seriously. They had tremendous cognitive bias. They did not believe that it was going to be as significant as it was and they did not take the threat seriously. The common thing that people said to me, and I’m embarrassed because they’re clients of mine, would say, “We got ready for Irene and nothing happened.” They really downplayed the possibility of a direct hit and of serious flooding and they [00:42:00] said it had never happened before.

The other thing that really I found incredibly amazing is that many of my clients, and I’m talking business continuity professionals, crisis managers, when I asked them, “Well, what did you have at home to be ready?” Many of them did not have flashlights, batteries, crank or battery powered radios. They did not have food, water. Their gas tank wasn’t full. All those things that we know that when a storm is coming in particular you [00:42:30] should be doing, and again when you looked at their plans they had the same kind of issue. Many plans assumed they would be out of their building a short amount of time, or they were able to go to their alternate work site or they were able to work from home, but of course we have widespread power outages that span 1,100 miles and you have no gas that can be pumped because gas requires electricity. No Internet. Batteries have all their laptops and their cell phones running out. People couldn’t work at all. [00:43:00] Tremendous issues for the business community that they just had not thought about. Their plans assumed short time out.

They also assumed a minimal impact in a region, and they really did expect that power would work and the Internet services would work within some distance of their spot. Now I live in San Francisco, an earthquake area, and we expect broad, widespread power outages, broad, widespread failure of all utilities, [00:43:30] and in the east they just don’t do that in their planning process and so they made a lot of assumptions that the impact to the region would be minimal and they could go someplace else pretty close and work. Didn’t work.

The work from home of course didn’t work at all when you don’t have any power, and many of my clients had a plan to displace workers out of other areas. They would take somebody from a mission critical location in one building. They would take them to another building some distance away let’s say, and they would actually displace a worker and then move [00:44:00] that person in, but they never had tested it. The problem with that of course is that they hadn’t tested it and therefore when you stop and think about it, what happened is they literally were not able to actually manage the event. They were not able to actually displace people. When they actually got there, what happened is they might have not even had an imaging, they might not have had what they needed in order to do their job, so that idea of having a plan and not testing it is a major, major issue.

And, many of the citizens failed [00:44:30] to get ready at home, and this again is one of the things that I find incredibly amazing and embarrassing. Many of my clients did not have what they needed at all to manage this crisis for their own personal family, and I would ask all of you. Please think about that yourself.

Think of the seven essentially skills that I’ve talked about. Each one of them are critically important. They all [inaudible 00:44:53] attach to each other, but there is a circle because once we get up to number seven which is evaluation, we continue to go around. Situational [00:45:00] awareness, [improvision 00:45:01], creativity, decisiveness, action, communication, and reevaluation. What I would like to leave you with in closing is this. A great and one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Edison. “If we all did the things that we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” And I ask you to think about that and yourself in relationship to your ability to manage a crisis. If we all thought that we could actually pull these things off and do them, we would be much farther ahead of the game. On that note I’m going to pass it back [00:45:30] to Will and we’ll continue.

Will Penfield:

All right, thank you Regina. At this point we’re going to turn it over to Scott Clancy who will provide a brief presentation on Crisis Commander.

Scott Clancy:

Thank you very much, Will, and also thank you Regina for joining us this afternoon. [00:46:00] Folks, we’ll give a quick high level overview of Crisis Commander. Before we jump into that though, what is Crisis Commander for those of you that may not be aware? Crisis Commander is a recently acquired solution for us over here at Everbridge that is designed to assist you with incident and crisis response. What we’ll do is just go through a quick slide deck highlighting some of the benefits and features of Crisis Commander.

What does Crisis Commander help you solve? Really it comes down to four [00:46:30] things or four themes that we talk about, with the first one being digitizing your response plans. For many of you that are on the line today that are familiar and work in crisis management, business continuity and the such, you currently have plans designed to respond to different situations. Now, how those plans are stored tends to vary from organization to organization. You might have them sitting physically in a binder somewhere or you may also have a digital copy as a PDF or word document sitting on a shared drive or some sort of file repository. [00:47:00] The point being is that it’s not always the most easily accessible things in the world, so one of the nice things about Crisis Commander is actually being able to take those plans and not only digitize them but make them available to you mobilely.

Two, we talk about improving operational response. Within Crisis Commander obviously over here at Everbridge our backbone and really our foundation is communication, so what Crisis Commander allows you to do is within there is actually communicate, collaborate, and share status updates while responding to a particular incident [00:47:30] so that everyone that’s a part of that team and responding to that incident will [inaudible 00:47:34] [00:48:00] … Solution. It comes with two very specific things. [00:48:30] It comes with a mobile application that is both iOS and Android supported, which you actually see some screenshots of it here, and it also comes with a web application in the background so it can be managed from two different interfaces.

Of course when we talk about mobile plan access we’re referring to the mobile application, so instead of having to be at our desk, in the ever changing world with mobile workforce and different locations for different organization around the globe, around the country, what have you, not everyone’s always going to be at their desk and have access to things like [00:49:00] network drives, file repositories, or even hardcopy materials so being able to take those plans and actually put them onto your cell phone and actually have them in your pocket so that if you need them you can access them at a moment’s notice is greatly beneficial.

We talked about improving operational response, and to me this really ties into visibility. Understanding during a response to an incident who’s doing what, when, and where? One of the great things about Crisis Commander, and you can actually see from the screenshots here, [00:49:30] is that we take your plans and we actually have the ability to break them down into a task list or a list of steps that need to be completed in order for us to successfully execute on a plan.

As you can see here, it gives you the ability to explicitly list out what the task is and actually assign an individual responsible while giving them the ability to complete their steps when they do. One of the great things about Crisis Commander, and we talk about this with mobile collaboration, is that everyone that’s a part of that response or that crisis team [00:50:00] that is actually working through and has different tasks that they need to complete themselves will still have that level of visibility so that they could understand without having to have phone calls, conference calls every so often. They could understand what everyone else is doing and where they’re at in their progress.

Reliable crisis communication. This ties back to what I had mentioned at the beginning. Communication really is our backbone over here at Everbridge. It’s our foundation where we got started in the space, and Crisis Commander is no exception. Crisis [00:50:30] Commander does have communication capability built in. It’s not just for updating your own task list and accessing documents. In a sense, if I need to activate our response team, we can do so through Crisis Commander. If I need to send a note to a member or a text message, an email, or a phone call to a member of that crisis team, I may not always have their contact information handy in front of me so it’s something that we can build into Crisis Commander as part of a contact profile to make it simpler for your response team members to contact one another.

[00:51:00] Lastly, standardizing organizational response. One of the excellent things about Crisis Commander is that everything actually that happens within the scope of the application gets recorded. When you look at Crisis Commander, who’s doing what? As soon as they complete a task, that information gets pushed into an official log or an official record so that for any after action review or after action report that needs to be completed after the incident has been closed, [00:51:30] it completes the majority of that for us. It is keeping that record as we do go through.

Lastly here, just a couple of different Crisis Commander benefits that I did want to touch on, and this is something that we’ve discussed and just to recap before we get into this. When we talk about Crisis Commander as a solution from a high level, it’s really four themes that it’s useful for and that’s accessibility, visibility, and plan management. We talked about visibility in the sense [00:52:00] that we can understand what each member of that response team is doing throughout the course of an incident, and we talked about accessibility from the standpoint of it’s in my pocket. It’s actually on my mobile device so that if I need to go in and access a plan at any point in time I don’t necessarily need to be at my desk or even in the office to do so. And of course plan management. The task list that you see in the screenshot to the right there, it makes it very easy and explicit for those response team members to understand what they may need to do in response to a particular incident.

One [00:52:30] other quick thing that I will mention before we briefly run down these benefits is within Crisis Commander, of course you can create your tasks, list your to-do lists, but within those to-do lists you can even attach additional documentation. This falls to me underneath the accessibility theme. If I need additional or supporting documentation in order to help me complete a certain step or do something during the course of an incident response, well that’s documentation that we can actually put in the solution so that they can access it through their mobile device as well.

To wrap up, [00:53:00] the Crisis Commander benefits that we’ve talked about today is number one, it’s easy to use and deploy. One of the great things about Crisis Commander obviously being software as a service is that it requires no hosting on your side, requires no IT team to deploy. It’s something that we manage from an infrastructure standpoint, and as long as you have your plans already there is an import capability to take those plans that you’ve already defined today and push them into the solution. It provides task and situation level visibility to management. I think this [00:53:30] is something that we talked about, at least with somewhat depth, and the understanding is being able to see without having to get on some sort of conference call or some sort of phone tree or some sort of email chain, being able to see right within the solution who’s doing what. It puts a digital BC plan in everyone’s pocket, so as long as you have the mobile application.

One of the nice things about Crisis Commander is that there are different user access levels, so not everyone that you decide to expose the solution to will necessarily have [00:54:00] the same level of access, or even be able to see the same things. However if you wanted to give it to your employees at large so that each individual employee could have maybe a condensed version of a plan, or even the entire plan themselves for them to reference, we could do so and it saves time on the creation and management of plans.

One of the interesting things that we can do with Crisis Commander is actually assign ownership to individual plans and set automated reminders, so for those folks out there that own a certain response plan, you [00:54:30] may want them to go in and update it and make sure that it’s current every month. Well that’s something that we can assist with on more of an automated reminder basis to allow that individual to say hey, we need you to go in and make sure this plan is current and up to date. We can assist with that, and as mentioned previously, no software to host. Just like everything over here at Everbridge, Crisis Commander is software as a service and will require no hardware or maintenance on your side.

With that said, that’s really all I wanted to cover from a [00:55:00] high level of Crisis Commander today and I will send it back over to Will, and of course if you had any questions feel free to place those into the question box.

Will Penfield:

All right, thanks Scott for that excellent overview of Crisis Commander. As Scott mentioned we are going to move on to the Q&A portion of today’s session. As a reminder you can submit your question by typing a question into the open text field in the questions panel on your screen. The first question we have is for you, Scott, from David in the audience. “Do we have to use [00:55:30] the Everbridge mass notification tool in order to use Crisis Commander?”

Scott Clancy:

That’s a great question. The answer is you do not necessarily need to, but one of the great things about bringing on Crisis Commander is if you do decide to become an Everbridge mass notification or instant communications customer as well is there will be some level of integration between the two, but just from a baseline, having Crisis Commander does not require any sort of mass notification solution as well.

Will Penfield:

All right, thank you Scott. Our next question we have is for you, [00:56:00] Regina. “How do you recommend convincing the executive board to implement a crisis management team?”

Regina Phelps :

Great question. A couple things I would suggest that you think about. One of the first things you can always look at is you can do some benchmarking against other companies that are similar to you both in size and in industry, and that would be one way that you can then point out that other companies similar to you have that process. The second is actually looking at disasters or things that happen in your area to be able to [00:56:30] do again another form of benchmarking, but it’s more incident related. How did somebody respond to that particular event is one way.

The third way might be then in the area also of doing exercises, which you can actually demonstrate the need for one by simply doing a very simple exercise. It can even almost be an orientation style exercise where you launch a narrative and if there is no crisis management team you can see how it’s handled or not handled, and it gives somebody a great ability to then [00:57:00] take a look at that more seriously, and then when you write a good after action report that documents the difficulties that the team, or lack of team, had responding, that’s another great way to do it.

I think all three of those things might be something that you can look at. Benchmarking against others that are like you, looking at disasters in your area and see how they were managed and if there was a team like that at the companies that dealt with it, and third is doing some simple related exercise to an assembled group of individuals who likely might be on a crisis management team but don’t have one, and see how they actually respond [00:57:30] and then document that well in an after action report that then goes to the board.

Will Penfield:

Thank you, Regina. I’ve got another one here for you. “Are there any differences between responding to a fast moving, no warning crisis versus slow moving crisis?”

Regina Phelps :

That’s a really great question. I think in a fast moving crisis, it’s like drinking out of a fire hose and it’s really difficult, but sometimes actually there are things that make it a little bit easier. Because in a slow moving crisis I think that’s where you really begin to see cognitive [00:58:00] bias, and let me give you an example of that. Technology, and I’m not picking on my technology colleagues at all, but many times in a technology emergency that can be somewhat slow moving. People keep thinking, “Give me five minutes, give me ten minutes, give me half an hour. I know I’m going to fix it. I know I’m going to fix it,” and time grinds on but nothing happens. Sometimes in a slow moving event you don’t see as well, you don’t communicate as well, you don’t think much is happening and it’s actually in some ways more difficult because [00:58:30] you’re just not on it. Where in a fast moving event you can sort of see it melt down before your eyes and I think it makes it in some ways easier to handle.

Will Penfield:

All right, thank you Regina. We got one more question for you before we wrap up. “How do we address social media during a crisis?”

Regina Phelps :

Oh god, that’s a great question and we’ll be talking about United Airlines for a thousand million years. Talk first of all to the communications team in your organization. There are a variety of software solutions [00:59:00] that will help you in monitoring social media. It is such a critical issue. Your communications team should have as part of their crisis communications plan methodologies to actually monitor social media. There’s many, many different apps that do that. Some of them are low cost. Some of them are more expensive. That’s one option. Secondarily, you might even have someone literally monitoring major forms of social media as part of your crisis communications [00:59:30] plan, so Twitter and Facebook in particular but others as well that you might more commonly utilize.

The other thing I would say to you is that in addition to having a monitoring tool, having a live person monitoring it, the other thing I would say to you is that when you do exercises you want to make sure that you always, always, always have social media as part of that issue. If you’re designing a traditional where the media is coming to talk to you based on whatever your story is, your response to an active shooter or your response to a customer emergency like the United [01:00:00] event, make sure that you have lots and lots of tweets, postings that your team then has to then be developing responses to, because it’s really hard to think saliently in 140 characters if you’re not practiced at it, and so exercise would be another great way to do that. I would encourage you to look at all of those.

Will Penfield:

All right, thank you Regina. With that we are out of time today, but before we wrap up I want to make sure everybody knows that we will be sending out a copy of the slides and a link to [01:00:30] the recording by tomorrow afternoon so be on the lookout for that. I want to thank Regina and Scott for a great webinar and all of our attendees who were able to join us today, and if you haven’t already please take a moment to follow us on Twitter @Everbridge and join our group on LinkedIn, Everbridge Incident Management and Emergency Notification Professionals. For those of you interested in requesting a one on one demo of Crisis Commander or any other aspect of the Everbridge system, please visit Everbridge.com/request-demo. Thank you all again [01:01:00] for coming to today’s session and we hope to see you all again soon. Have a great day.