While I write this post geared toward a school community, due to the tragic shooting at the school in Parkland, Florida, a crisis plan is essential for every organization and business, so as you read this, know that it can be translated in many ways.
The definition of a “crisis” is a sudden, generally unanticipated event that profoundly and negatively affects a significant segment of the (school) population and often involves illness and serious injury.
Possibly, students and staff will be affected, and the psychological and emotional impact will be moderate to severe. Managing a crisis requires a coordinated effort involving several people, under the direction of the Head of School.
Crisis management is a central component of comprehensive school safety. The most important consideration in a crisis management plan is that you are prepared to respond in a timely and professional manner to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of your students and school community.
Safety is a team effort and everyone in the school community is a member of the team. It is important that the response to a crisis is coordinated to be able to communicate the appropriate information accurately to parents, students, alumni, the community at large, the public, and the media.
Crisis response procedures are designed to ensure the success and effectiveness of your planning. It is not possible to plan for every situation, however having a solid plan in place will minimize most adverse outcomes. Plans can be tailored and refined. However, if the infrastructure of a plan is not designed, you will put the school in a much worse situation.
When social media has caused the problem, a school can handle the situation much better by understanding why others are upset. Social media happens in real time, which means that a school or company needs to respond to a situation in real time as well.
What happens if you are not prepared?
You freeze and go into panic mode. You ask each other, ‘Will this go away on its own? What should we do now? How should we respond? Should we call someone and ask for help?’ The problem has now become much worse because you are not prepared.
When a problem arises, these are the initial steps to take:
1. Ask whether this is a real crisis or just a problem that can be put out quickly.
2. Gather your crisis team and implement the plan that you’ve designed.
3. Respond and either defend your position or own it and apologize.
Handling a crisis includes:
• Identifying whether a situation is a problem or a crisis.
• Responding quickly and understanding the responsibilities of each team member.
• Understanding the temperament of the complainers.
• Determining the most effective methods for resolving the situation.
• Being prepared, practicing and implementing the crisis plan.
• Subscribe and set up social media monitoring tools such as:
• Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro
• Geopiq for Instagram
• Design responses and hashtags for all applicable social media
• Build out toolkits for easy to reach necessities
Training a key group of employees on how to respond quickly and effectively during a crisis is essential. Planning and practicing for a crisis is similar to rehearsing for a play or for a sports event. The more time that goes in, the better off the result will be.
You won’t freeze and go into panic mode! You will not have to ask each other if this will go away on its own or what you should do now because you will have hired a crisis communications specialist who has an understanding of how to develop and work with a team. The crisis will not become worse than it is because you are prepared. Brian Kaplan would love to sit down with you and other key members of your team to discuss how he can help your school develop a solid crisis communications plan.