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The four pillars of incident management

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David Gilbert

VP Americas

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Oct 1, 2018
4 min read
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Getting your hazard communications to work for you

Datacenter failures, natural disasters, weather events, security incidents, traffic jams, and hazardous chemical leaks. The number of crises your organization could face is daunting. If you're on the hook to have your business prepared, we've organized the incident management process into four pillars to provide a framework for the unexpected.

At Whispir, we've worked with hundreds of Incident Managers at companies across the world to streamline their emergency procedures and enact the appropriate protective measures. From this experience, we have found there are four key pillars for managing communications during an incident. If you can put your playbook in this context, you'll be better prepared to respond in and outside of the work area.

For example; ever get an Amber Alert? Was it relevant to you? One overarching theme is: that while you may be inclined to do mass notifications to the team with vague hazard information, spamming everyone will have a negative impact - leading to your alerts being ignored. Therefore, any hazard communications must be timely, targeted, and accurate. Don't spam everyone, just the people who need to act or be informed when a crisis or health hazard occurs.

Pillar 1 - Collect

All incidents are triggered when a sensor goes off. A sensor can be anything, machine or human that reacts to specific information it receives. It could be firmware on a vehicle telematics system notifying an equipment failure, a network monitoring software, or a student on campus who lets the security guard know about a suspicious bag they saw or flammable liquids that were left unattended.

For example, a workplace was shown a Post-It note from an Incident Management leader telling future visitors about a 'mouse in residence'. While not your typical physical hazard, collecting situational accuracy from the field is critical to making quality hazard assessments. So, make sure you have a system flexible enough to handle as many forms of input (digital or otherwise) as possible. Starting with good information to fill out safety data sheets is key.

If you have a written hazard communication program in place, it's time you looked into a digital crisis communications provider like Whispir. No matter your geographical location, our omnichannel platform has helped many teams alleviate their incident management concerns.

A pink post-it note reading "A mouse is in residence here"

Pillar 2: Choose

Based on the type of incident or hazard classification, the data collected from the field needs to be routed to the appropriate team to make a choice about what playbook to run. For instance, a fire may go to a different team than a flood, a shooter, hazardous waste, or a network outage. Ensuring data integrity is paramount in this process, allowing the assessment team to enact a system of classification in order to make an informed, timely choice about how best to respond. This assessment process could be as simple as software, a series of humans who have the authority to trigger the next phase, or an alternative method unique to your situation. If information from the field is accurate and timely, this pillar should happen fast among the responsible party.

Pillar 3: Act

The "Act" is the actual response and instructions that specific teams follow until a resolution has been achieved. These communications can vary in content and medium, applied to a full team or a designated representative to coordinate.

Track everything

Being able to analyze the progress and status of these incident communications and their outcomes can mean the difference between success and failure during a response. Depending on the incident and your playbook, this stage can take minutes or even years. That's why it's vital that you take a comprehensive look at your protective measures before and after incidents to occur to shorten this process as much as possible.

Pillar 4: Analyze

During an incident, there are various groups that need to be kept informed about the status, impact, and actions related to the incident. It's all part of proper hazard communication training.

At Whispir, our customers call these dashboards. These dashboards need to be relevant to each team, as the CFO wants different information than the PR team and recovery leaders want dashboards specific to them. The point is, to share what’s happening in the context of the viewer - so they have useful information and don’t call the response team, interrupting that team's work. Make this initial assignment early on so that teams can proactively set their dashboards and fully utilize them when the time comes.

In Summary

Nobody wants an incident to happen. However, smart companies will take precautionary measures to best prepare for random and foreseeable emergency situations. It's time you set the hazard communication standard for your team and others.

It's no trade secret, but we at Whispir hope this framework is useful as you prepare for the unexpected and keep your occupational safety measures up to date and as inclusive as possible.

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