By John Worne

When something goes badly wrong, it often takes a COO or Specialist-Generalist to figure out how best to sort out the mess. 

All major incidents: fires, floods, IT outages, even violent attacks affect the same three things: people, places and services. 

So they automatically cut across Operations, Communications and HR – with immediate and long term liability, reputation and economic consequences. 

The clamour is always for quick decisions and commitments and timely action is vital; but what you do in the moment could have long term ramifications. 

Three things really help:

1) Recognise the Phases of an incident and keep some energy (and good people) available for when the initial adrenaline has run out. 

2) immediately get a ‘Rolling Comms Brief’ going to build confidence, guide appropriate action and stop chatter, noise and the rumour mill. A Comms Brief needs to captures what is known and what can be said, in a form which can be widely shared; if necessary in the public domain. Update it and reissue it regularly; almost certainly daily at first – and make everyone refers to it and uses it both internally and externally.

3) Pull together a simple Timeline which captures and logs, in no more that 2-3 pages the key dates, times and actions which are being taken. This should follow the FBI’s golden rule: “Just the facts”.

An incident will only become a disaster if you don’t manage the phases, keep the comms regular and keep a timeline – for when the inquest, enquiries and reviews kick in. 

Do these three things and you can manage almost anything.

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