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How to prepare your organisation for a terrorist attack

January 17, 2018 by Jonathan Hemus

In 2017, the UK alone experienced five major terrorist attacks, the most in any year since 1992. The impact on human lives is, of course, the biggest and most important consequence of a terrorist incident, but it is not the only one.

Businesses can feel the impact of a terrorist attack, either directly or indirectly, and the effect – human, operational and reputational – can be significant. Leaders of those businesses have a responsibility to ensure that the organisation survives and continues to provide jobs for its people and products or services for its customers. 

Achieving this objective when confronted by the destruction and emotional impact of a terrorist attack presents a unique management challenge which requires crisis management planning, training and great leadership under intense pressure.

Here are five areas of focus to help ensure you are prepared to respond should the worst happen:

 

1. Scenario planning

Responding to a terrorist incident places unprecedented pressure on an organisation to do and say the right thing against a backdrop of confusion and chaos. Without forethought, the likelihood of a well-executed response is extremely low. Scenario planning is a very effective foundation for developing your thinking and assessing your resources ahead of an incident.

Thorough scenario planning for a terrorist incident will identify the steps you need to take to ensure that knowledge, resources and capabilities are in place to minimise impact in the event of an incident.

2. Plan development 

Scenario planning helps you rehearse your thinking and identify how to gear up for a major incident, but you must also have clear plans to guide your response. Your crisis management plan should be sufficiently flexible to guide your response to all major incidents (not just acts of terror).

However, you should also consider turning learnings from your scenario planning into a checklist of actions, decisions and resources specifically related to terrorism.

3. People planning 

A terrorist incident brings with it an immediate need to care for and communicate with employees, customers and other stakeholders, and subsequently a requirement to continue to provide support as they recover from their experiences.

At a time of uncertainty, confusion and fear, employees will look to the people they trust to provide support, guidance and leadership. They will be asking themselves, “Do my bosses really care about what’s happened to me and do they have the ability to guide us through this major event?” Business leaders and managers must act and communicate in ways which reassure their people that this is indeed the case.

4. Social media preparation

Planning communication of all kinds is a top priority if you are to succeed in protecting your reputation following a terrorist incident. But recent events have shown the critical role of social media and you need to plan accordingly. For example, during the Paris attacks in 2015, 11 million tweets were posted in 24 hours.

With thousands of messages, videos and images appearing on social media in the minutes and hours after an attack, you need to make sure you have the tools and the resource in place to make sense of the volume of information that’s being published and to ensure that your voice is heard.

5. Training

It’s important to rehearse your crisis management plans. It is only by drilling your teams thoroughly and regularly that you can be confident they will do the right things under intense pressure.

 

Contemplating the impact of a major terrorist incident on your organisation is a deeply unsettling thought. However, it is only by thoroughly planning and rehearsing your crisis management response that you can rest easy that you would protect not just your people, but also your reputation and business should the worst occur.

Sign up to our crisis management webinar to hear how you can prepare, manage and plan for terrorist attacks as an organisation.

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