After the Smoke Clears: 7 Things to Do Once an Emergency Is Over

Richard Long

The end of an emergency is often the beginning of a longer phase of crisis management and business recovery. In today’s post, we’ll talk about seven things you should do after the most acute phase of an emergency is over.

In my previous post, I talked about The 6 Tasks Every Emergency Plan Should Address. Today, I’d like to address the things you should segue into doing as the most intense part of the emergency starts winding down.

Sometimes an emergency ends right away with small impact and no long-term consequences. Other times it can be the beginning of a very challenging period as the company struggles to get back to normal operations.

The two big problems we see, in terms of the post-emergency phase:

  • People tend not to grasp that responding to an emergency is more of a circular process than a linear one. Expect to go back and repeat the emergency steps over and over as you work to bring things under control.
  • People tend to be insufficiently proactive. Think in terms of what might happen or be impacted, as well as what has happened and is impacted. If you think you might have a large impact, activate the crisis management plan rather than waiting until it is required.

Below are the seven things you should do “after the smoke clears”:

1. Make sure the emergency is resolved.

Before moving on from emergency response mode, it is important to make sure the emergency is over. If it isn’t, you should continue cycling through The 6 Tasks Every Emergency Plan Should Address as described in the previous blog. You may need to run through the main emergency response tasks several times. The process of responding to an emergency is more like drawing a circle several times than going once down a straight line.

2. Decide whether to activate the crisis management team.

Depending on the event, you may or may not need to activate the crisis management team (CMT). Some emergencies are acute in the moment but don’t have a long-term impact (a prank bomb threat, for example). Others can pose a serious threat to the company’s survival. Thinking about this issue can begin during the emergency. Evaluate the potential length and scope of the event. Could it significantly disrupt your operations? Was anyone hurt? Will the media be coming? As you learn what the situation is, consult the CM plan. The CM plan should include criteria outlining when the plan should be invoked. Have you met the criteria? Activate the CMT to help with assessment and planning.

3. Transition to the crisis management plan, if needed.

If you do need to invoke the CM plan, then you will need to manage the transition from emergency response to crisis management or potentially run the teams in parallel. The milestones indicating when you should do this should be spelled out in your CM plan. The transition usually takes place when the initial event is stabilized (the fire is out, the breach is contained, etc.) and the first responders are cleaning up and leaving.

4. Continually monitor and adjust the staffing and meeting schedule of the emergency and crisis teams.

As events unfold, the exact people who should come to your crisis management meetings, and how often those meetings should be held, will change. As things develop, you might find you need to bring in a new expert, or that you can reduce the meeting schedule from every thirty minutes to every two hours.

5. Determine whether to invoke the business continuity plan.

Be proactive. If there is a chance you might need to invoke the BC plans, start pulling them out, just in case. Make any preparations necessary. It is much easier to stop or not execute than to try to react after an impact has occurred.

6. Return to normal operations.

The CM and BC plans should include a business resumption plan that has milestones for returning to regular operations (for example, “when 75 percent of the facility is available”). As you pass the milestones, begin returning to normal operations.

7. Complete a post-event assessment.

Once the crisis is over, conduct an assessment that looks at how the company performed. What did you do well? What did you miss? Were their gaps in your plans? Hold the review reasonably soon after the crisis, when memories are fresh. Gather recommendations for improvement and implement the best ones.

Getting Back to Normal

Sometimes an emergency is just a blip. Sometimes it is the beginning of a long road back to normal operations. Responding to an emergency is more a circular process than a linear one. Be proactive. If there’s a chance you might need to do something, get ready to do it. Follow the steps above to help guide you from the emergency back toward regular operations.

Further Reading

For more information on what to do when an emergency is over and other hot topics in business continuity and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from the MHA Consulting and BCMMETRICS blogs:

meticulous executionplan a mock disaster exercise