Characteristics of a crisis

While every crisis is different, there are some common characteristics. Understanding the common characteristics of crises will help you develop a practical and reliable incident response plan for your business.

During a crisis:

  • there may be physical danger, which should be your first priority
  • you and your staff may suffer from confusion, friction, pressure and stress
  • key staff may be unavailable
  • it may be difficult or impossible to carry out your usual daily activities
  • external support may be needed (e.g. from emergency services or neighbouring businesses)
  • there may be a lack of clear information about what is happening
  • there may be limited time in which to make decisions about what to do
  • attention from your stakeholders, customers and the media may be intense
  • news may travel fast, shaping the public perception of the crisis and how it is being handled.

An incident response plan provides clear instructions for dealing with these characteristics. Having a plan will help you stay calm and in control during a crisis, which will help reduce the impact to your business.

Business continuity planning

Your incident response plan should be part of your broader business continuity plan, which includes a risk management plan and a business impact analysis that identify possible risks to your business. An incident response plan is the response step in the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery (PPRR) model of business continuity planning.

While your risk management plan will identify and help you treat most of the risks to your business, some will be untreatable or unpredictable. Having an incident response plan will help you and your staff deal with these risks if they do happen by reducing confusion and stress in a crisis situation. An incident response plan can also help minimise the impact a crisis has on your business.

Also consider...