Working in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry comes with its own set of risks. Chances are every company will experience a crisis sometime during its existence. It’s not really a matter of “if,” it’s more of a matter of “when.” That is why it’s so important to have a crisis management plan in place.
The purpose of this type of plan is to empower a company to handle the situation in an organized, informative fashion. Responding in a timely manner is critical. If a company waits too long to respond to a crisis, the general public will start making assumptions and filling in the blanks on their own. The key to successful crisis communications is having an outlined plan in place that can be used for multiple scenarios.
So what should be in your crisis management plan? Here are some important items to keep in mind when creating or revising your plan.
- Determine your crisis team in advance. Clearly define the roles of the individuals on your crisis team, such as representatives for emergency response team, safety/risk, who will be working with your client, someone to update and take calls from the media, internal communications, etc. Have the contact information for each person on the crisis team available in both print and electronic formats. It’s also important to maintain flexibility in your system to allow for the replacement of crisis team members in the event one of them is unavailable or unable to assist.
- Before a crisis occurs, plan out your response for different scenarios. When working in the AEC industry, it’s important to think of the situations that could go wrong before they do. Consider everything from small crises to big ones, and have your plan of attack, from beginning to end, prepared ahead of time. Some situations to consider: injury or death, fire, crane collapse/equipment failure, environmental crisis, embezzlement/fraud, or strike.
- Who gets notified first? When a crisis strikes, it’s important to keep all key audiences (employees, family members, stakeholders, customers/clients, and the media) informed. Keep in mind your sequencing of communications. For example, you don’t want your employees hearing about a crisis from a story they see on the evening news.
- Choose a spokesperson. Your plan should define who your spokesperson is for different crisis situations. Determine who is the most qualified and credible to speak to key audiences. That person needs to be fully briefed on the situation at hand within the first hour so they can be prepared to answer questions and provide statements.
- Don’t keep the media waiting. All news releases and statements should be drafted within the first few hours of the crisis occurring. Statements should come from the designated spokesperson. Make sure to have all materials approved by the necessary parties before sending. Statements and news releases should include the hard facts with a quote from the spokesperson. Avoid putting anything in the release that is not a hard-known fact. Before sending out releases or statements, make sure to inform those taking calls who to direct the calls to, or what he/she should say.If the designated spokesperson isn’t yet ready to give an incident-specific statement, having a standard prepared statement readily available for an employee to deliver to the media, once the calls start coming in and crews start showing up on scene, will inform the media that the team is working on providing them with additional information and will do so once that information is gathered and verified. The worst thing you can say is nothing or “No comment.” Miron’s standard statement is as follows:“There has been an incident on the job. Our main concern is for the safety of everyone involved. At the present time our focus in on the individuals involved and their families. We do not have any further details of the incident at this time, however, the incident is being investigated and we are cooperating with the appropriate authorities. A representative will be back in 45 minutes with an update. Thank you.” At this point, we advise our employees to walk away from the media without answering further questions.
- Participate in a crisis drill exercise. One of the best ways you can be prepared for a crisis is to practice. That way you can see what works and where improvement is necessary. And remember, if something doesn’t work during a drill or a walk-through; change that procedure in your crisis management plan.
Though it’s impossible to foresee every situation, it’s important to have a plan in place for situations you know may occur at any time. Creating a game plan ahead of time will help your team maintain credibility, and a level head, throughout a crisis.