Editor's Note: The Crisis Management Challenge

Dec. 14, 2015
Paris once again reminds us that businesses — both your own and your customers’ — need to be prepared for anything

It has been a while since an incident happened like the one in Paris. There have been school shootings and other attacks, but nothing of this size and scope since perhaps 9/11. As we all assess our lives and our businesses in the aftermath, the term preparedness once again comes to the forefront.

But beyond physical security preparedness, Paris seems to have conjured a perhaps forgotten preparedness issue for the security industry and its customers: How businesses and organizations should be responding when something terrible is happening — a.k.a. crisis management.

Lower Manhattan businesses are likely all-too familiar with this sort of protocol, but for many companies, disaster planning is decidedly not on the front burner. This is where security service providers — hopefully the trusted advisor to these companies — can play a key role. And let’s not forget that the security service providers themselves are businesses that should be making the same crisis management plans internally.     

Communication is Key

Joel Griffin, my editorial colleague with SecurityInfoWatch.com, recently interviewed John Rose, COO of risk management services firm iJET, who said these attacks have certainly demonstrated the criticality of communication between institutions and their employees. Not only does this affect your clients and customers, but it should ring true inside your own security services business. When disaster strikes, communication is key.

“You absolutely, without question, have to be able to immediately communicate with all of your people,” Rose said. “During every single event like this there are institutions running around that don’t know where their people are. They can’t track them, or they don’t have their mobile phone numbers or primary email addresses. (Everyone has) a primary, and you need to know what that is.”

Rose added that many businesses and organizations do not practice for events like this. “The odds of you having an employee impacted by an event are higher than you having a building fire,” he said, adding that employees may not be caught in the literal crossfire, but that doesn’t mean they wont be impacted by surrounding events. “You need a drill that says: ‘Here are our protocols, here is who gets woken up, this where the reports come from, this is what we know,’ so that everyone can be communicated with quickly.”  

Stay in the Know

Plenty of security service providers have expanded their operations beyond U.S. soil. Those companies already know the value of intelligence, as it is virtually impossible to safely conduct operations on foreign ground with having “a lay of the land.”

“We all know companies can do business anywhere — there are companies doing business in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are some of the scariest places in the world from a security standpoint,” Rose explained. “Companies can do business there with the right level of protection, but not everybody wants to spend that type or money or take that type of risk.”

Whether you or your client is conducting operations at home or abroad, Rose says that actionable intelligence is vitally important.

The Crisis Management Challenge

Whether or not it is for your company or your customer’s, it is time to step into the role of crisis manager. How will the company respond in the event of a city-wide emergency like in Paris? How will the company make sure its employees are safe — or at least accounted for — if something happens during working hours?

Both internally and for external customers, be sure to establish a company organization to deal with crisis both during and in the aftermath. These individuals need to be a special breed that can make strategic decisions in the midst of what may be chaotic circumstances and with likely less than adequate information.

In the end, crisis management is all about planning. It would behoove you and your customers to be ready — take the time to put something in place.

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Dealer & Integrator (SD&I) magazine (www.secdealer.com). 

About the Author

Paul Rothman | Editor-in-Chief/Security Business

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine. Email him your comments and questions at [email protected]. Access the current issue, full archives and apply for a free subscription at www.securitybusinessmag.com.