It's the seaons of giving
Do you have resources to manage a crisis? As program leaders, we often seek reliable resources to manage a crisis. Since we are heading into the holiday season in the United States, I want to kick off the season right. It’s time to be thankful and appreciative. So, I thought I would share my best sources of crisis information and tools to assist others with their response.
Good situational awareness is vital to limiting damage when an emergency occurs. Additionally, it is helpful to have a meaningful assessment tool in place to help aid initial decision-making. One can argue that a risk decision matrix is an apparent force multiplier. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, I recommend reading How To Use A Risk Decision Matrix To Support Decision Making. Honestly, I did not use a formulaic approach for many years but would lead teams using ad-hoc questions and a process of elimination to determine the next steps. Below are tools I have found helpful for crisis response and wanted to share.
Open-source resources for crisis response
Fortunately, no one accuses crisis management of being a compliance-driven tick-box exercise. Planning for events is. Incidents, by their nature, are real-time affairs. I concur that managing crises is an essential aspect of resilient organizations. The first step to preparing for unique, rare, and unforeseen events is to have good information for decision-making.
Some of the open-source tools I find helpful are:
- Natural Disasters: I rely on the National Weather Services (NOAA) site for the US. With significant active data and click-downs, there is a wealth of resources here. The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) provides a worldwide view. You can also sign up for Weather.com or Weather Underground. Tropical Storm Risk offers worldwide tracking. Accuweather has a helpful landing page with the ability to click down from its menu to its hurricane tracker, severe weather, and winter center.
- Power Outages: For the United States, poweroutage.us helps understand the scale and scope of an outage. It’s also well-updated. Another source is Generac’s Current Power Outages page. I’ve yet to find a worldwide source for power outages, so if you know of one, leave it in the comment section.
- IT Outages: Down Detector is a site that shares real-time problem and outage monitoring. It gathers information on mobile and internet providers. It also tracks online services, online games, and finance sites. ThousandEyes, powered by Cisco, will give you a view of internet outages within the past 24 hours.
- Media Sources: Of course, we all track our favorite news outlets and social media sources for real-time information on threats and risks. Some vendors, like Factal, provide podcasts and post helpful updates on world events on LinkedIn. You can also set up Google Alerts or similar trackers to stay on top of breaking news. An aggregator I found years ago is the Emergency Email & Wireless Network.
- Infectious Disease Outbreaks: You can also keep tabs on outbreaks by following the CDC Current Outbreak List. The World Health Organization maintains a Disease Outbreak News (DONs) page that links to Situation Reports.
Of course, many of these sites have paid features you can explore and choose which would benefit your organization best. So, for those with a small budget, there are a lot of free resources out there. Even large organizations look to free resources to augment paid resources. And frankly, ones like NOAA are excellent and often the source data that vendors aggregate. The downside of open-source data is that it may not be aggregated or analyzed for you.
Building a tolerance for incomplete intelligence
As I said earlier, gaining meaningful information early in a crisis can significantly reduce the event’s impact on an organization. Asking if you have the resources to manage a situation is not a one-time activity but part of an improvement process. Alert notification sources help your team understand and assess a situation. The challenge is often to evaluate an event quickly with the information available.
Recognizing your organization’s appetite to make decisive decisions enables you to tailor a program for crisis response. Some organizations’ BAU is to gather all available data and analyze it before deciding. Others are much more flexible and agile. Knowing this will inform the crisis response structure you implement. So, I recommend you build job aid, tools, and processes to communicate to your team and leadership. Generally, the most significant frustration I hear from crisis leaders is the challenge of working with indecisive teams or executives. Exercising consistently builds confidence and understanding of the need for quick, decisive solutions.
Guidance documents and educational sources
In my blog, Importance Of Exercises To Resilience, I reviewed some sources for resilience fundamentals. For crisis management, some of the most helpful best practice documents I’ve found are:
- ISO 22301:2019 – Specifies requirements to implement, maintain and improve a management system to protect against, reduce the likelihood of the occurrence of, prepare for, respond to and recover from disruptions when they arise.
- BCI Good Practice Guidelines – They also offer an analysis available here. Considerations of response structure are part of the implementation section.
- BCI Incident Response and Crisis Management Training Course – I audited this course over the past year, which is quite good.
- DRII Professional Practices for Business Continuity Management – Contains an overview of Incident Response.
- PD 25666:2010 – Helps organizations understand and implement a results-driven exercise program.
- FEMA’s HSEEP – Is the federal agency’s Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program.
Obviously, the new ISO for crisis management is a resource as well. If you have favorites I didn’t list, please list them in the comments below so others can check them out.
Crisis and incident management vendors
Do you have resources to manage a crisis that can also encompass personnel? As program managers, crisis leaders always ask themselves if they have the right team to support crisis response. Just like the program, we should regularly consider if our objectives are achievable with the allocated staffing. Often, the majority of administrators feel woefully understaffed. I wrote about the recently released ISO for Crisis Management, which can aid in analyzing your existing structure.
I will provide an analysis in an upcoming blog, but for now, you can review current trends offered by BCI Crisis Management Report (2021). Vendors and consultants provide other resources. Reviewing specific vendors is not part of this topic. Still, the ones with crisis or incident management platforms are Everbridge-Critical Event Management, Fusion-Crisis and Incident Management, and InfiniteBlue also has Groupdolists, a response platform. If you are shopping for software, it’s good to list your needs and then engage the vendors to find your best match.
Tracking, administration, and management
Finally, a system to aid crisis management and tracking are critical to effective event administration. If all you have are Word and Excel documents, that is better than nothing. Also, having a system to communicate is vital. That can be an in-system process, or you could use a platform already utilized by your employers, like MS Teams, Google Workspace, or Slack. The main idea is to have an organized way to share and store information related to the event. Then, it can be helpful to use a communication tool for mass notification.
Well, I hope this was helpful. Whether you are an old pro or new to the space, we can all pick up new ideas or tools to improve our capabilities. Let me know if you want me to do a similar blog on risk resources. Have a wonderful holiday season. As always, I am thankful for your support and readership.
Did you know?
Disaster Empire blogs contain embedded links to source materials, articles of interest, videos, books, and training I recommend you check out to expand your knowledge base. Just click on the blue embedded link to access the resource.