Command and Control: Setting Up the Crisis Command Center
Even in this age of virtual offices, the truth is that when a crisis hits, especially if it’s during the day, the communications team will mostly gather together physically to work on a response. An organization should decide ahead of time on a few places — in fact, four — where that powwow might take place.
It may sound boring or too tactical to think ahead about having enough legal pads in a room. But, just as you don’t start writing statement templates after the factory catches fire, you don’t want to be searching for paper clips when you’re deciding how to respond to the new lawsuit against you.
As for potential sites, they don’t have to be dedicated to crisis response, but they should be conveniently located for the team to get to, and be big enough to hold the equipment and supplies you’ll need, including computers, copiers, and phones. This most likely means a conference room, auditorium, or other meeting room.
The reason we say places — plural — is that you may be hit with a crisis, such as a facility fire or explosion, that disrupts business operations. Therefore, it’s best to pick two spaces within your company location and two that are off-site to ensure at least one can be accessed. Off-site may mean at a subsidiary, outside law firm or PR agency, or hotel (for the last, you probably won’t be able to pre-fill the space with your equipment and supplies; in that case, have a list of where to obtain those things when needed).
When the crisis hits, one person, usually the leader of the crisis communications team, should determine where the group will work. On-site location A would be the preference, but you may have to opt for on-site location B, off-site location A, or off-site location B. Even with a physical space, it wouldn’t be unusual that some team members will work remotely.
The locations should be comfortable. Depending on the crisis, the team may be spending many hours and days in this room, grappling with how to respond to it and to each wrinkle. A pleasant atmosphere might help alleviate tensions that will arise. You don’t want the space to turn into the jury room in 12 Angry Men.
A page in your crisis plan should list the location of each command center so all team members are familiar with them. A crisis team member or other employee must be tasked with checking each center at least quarterly to make sure each is properly equipped and the equipment is in working order. You’ll want plenty of computers to access your CrisisResponsePro account.
This will vary depending on organization, but some things to consider making sure you have on hand ahead of time include:
- Printer paper
- Flip charts
- Company B-roll
- Crisis plan
- CrisisResponsePro Quickstart Guide (several copies)
- Catering Services
If we’ve said it once we’ve said it a lot times: Successful crisis communications is 1 percent luck and 99 percent preparation.
Photo Credit: Avava/Shutterstock
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