Do you know who to notify if an incident occurs?

Incidents rarely take place from nine to five, and yet only a few businesses account for this when setting up their chain of command. Does your team know where their responsibility starts and ends if something occurs outside business hours or in holiday time? Do they know who to notify?

Having that confidence to say you notified the right people, at the right time is vital in crisis management. Unnecessary stress and confusion can affect the whole process. This is where an operational rota system comes in handy.

Establishing a clear chain of command

Having an unclear chain of command can be very confusing and may even cause panic. Your team will not know who to call, which can result in them notifying the wrong people or even alerting everyone. Either way, it will create unwanted backlash.

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Remember that most people will only experience one or two major incidents at the same company during their working life. This lack of frequency, combined with the fact that you cannot plan for when incidents will happen, causes a lot of stress. Therefore, the chain of command must be absolutely crystal clear.

Read more: Mass notification- distressing technology?

Having stacks of paper explaining the procedures in an old filing system will not cut it. There simply is no time to go hunting for the right document or folder to find out who you should notify, and even worse, those files are rarely updated.

Also, you cannot rely entirely on your Incident Manager, as he might be on holiday or unreachable when something happens. It is then critical to have a solid system with established processes or workflows that provide everyone, from the bottom all the way to the top, with the necessary information. I case of an incident, everyone, regardless of position, will know who their initial call is.

Knowing where your responsibility begins and ends

The people on call will have different tasks and responsibilities during an incident. Some of them will only be responsible for alerting the right people, while others will have to decide whether the response should be escalated or not, and will manage the crisis. This might seem like a given to a manager, but without a reliable system, people will not know where their responsibility starts and ends. Establishing clear tasks and areas of responsibility will give your team confidence while working.

So, can you rely on an excel sheet alone for providing the necessary information? While Excel is great for storing a lot of information in an organised way, there are a few issues with this solution.

Firstly, such lists don’t update automatically. Secondly, it doesn’t take into an account important factors like training, holidays or if someone is off sick. 

With a rota system, you can manage not just who is on call, but also the external factors that affect the people on call. Another good thing is that you can have multiple rotas. Although an incident happens in one location, you can alert and get help from other departments or offices as well. Your team might not know who the people at the other offices are, but they can easily see who is on call.  

This is especially important when larger incidents strike, because they can go on for several days, weeks or even months. Such incidents can be incredibly draining to deal with. However, a rota system will allow you to bring in additional resources from outside your immediate office/region.       

Simply put, your team needs something they can rely on, a system that can be accessed at all times, with a step-by-step walk through of what they need to do. This should be in addition to practicing the proactive method of crisis management.

Lastly, make sure that whatever plans or processes you have are meaningful, so that you are not only proactive on paper, but in practice as well. Whenever and however an incident may occur.  

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By Attallah McKay

Attallah is the Senior Account Manager for One Voice UK. She works closely with One Voice’s UK based clients, especially those in the Oil & Gas, Aviation and Local Authorities industries. Attallah has worked with Incident and Emergency solutions for the last 3 years and has a marketing degree from Aston University.

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