What Hawaii’s missile alert can teach us about crisis management

By: Mijee Briana Walker

At my organization, I am normally the one leading crisis management planning workshops and writing and testing the plans. So, when my recent family vacation in Hawaii was interrupted by an incoming missile alert, I did what I would tell someone to do during a test: I opened lines of communication with the people nearby.

Hawaii’s false alarm

In the ensuing confusion, it became difficult to find out whether the alert was real or a false alarm, but I eventually received the “all clear” from a friend, who confirmed via Facebook through someone with direct knowledge of the situation.

As a resiliency professional who has consulted for years with organizations to write and test crisis management plans, this experience turned out to be a compelling case study. During these unclear situations, I am reminded of the importance of establishing available lines of communication in a crisis — between colleagues, between the business and its clients, or in this case between a state and its residents.

This experience offered an opportunity to ask some important questions: Are you prepared for your next crisis? Do your employees know what to do and what to instruct any customers at your location to do?

Design an effective crisis management plan

I see this event as a learning experience and an opportunity to ensure that our crisis management plans are complete and current. I hope you will join me in this effort. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you create or revisit your own plans:

  • Make sure your disaster recovery plan has been updated within the past year and includes two to four different scenarios.
  • Ensure that this plan is communicated regularly and your employees understand their roles and responsibilities, both for themselves and for anyone else who may be at your business.
  • Establish a strategy for team communications that minimizes the chance of confusion or skepticism. As those communications are sent, be sure to track activities and collect data to review after the fact.
  • Run annual tests that include random selections of employees from across your business to ensure that everyone knows what to do, when to do it and who else will step in if the assigned person is unavailable.
  • Review what actually happened during a false alarm. Did your employees know what to do and how to help your customers? If not, it is time to update your plans and communications.

The event in Hawaii was rare, and we hope it stays that way in the future. Regardless, preparation is key. We are interested, first and foremost, in keeping our fellow employees, clients and facilities safe. With the help of the many different tools at our disposal today, we can all do our part year-round to establish and maintain crisis management plans for ourselves and our clients.

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About The Author

Mijee Briana Walker

Asia Pacific Leader for IBM Resiliency Services

Mijee Briana Walker is the Asia Pacific Leader for IBM Resiliency Services. With 20 years in Information Technology, she has worked with companies around the world to help them determine how they can best achieve their availability and continuity goals - from both a business and technology perspective. She has consulted on resiliency programs for... Read more