THE CRISIS READY INSTITUTE BLOG

5 Steps to Mitigate the Impact of Severe Weather Season in a COVID-19 World

Just in case anybody has forgotten, the Atlantic Hurricane Season opens on 1 June. The first named storms of the year, Arthur and Bertha, have already come and gone. 500-year flooding events are happening in Michigan, with two dams already breached. The USDA Forest Service is reporting eight large wildfires across the country, and Tornado Alley is waking up with a total of 503 tornadoes confirmed so far this year. All this would usually add up to a regular spring disaster season, and then we add COVID-19.

Everybody has been heads down, focusing on managing the COVID-19 crisis and the consequences of the decisions made to try and control the pandemic. That management effort has focused on adapting to the new world of physical distancing, the recognition that offices may not be necessary, and figuring out where to find the last available roll of toilet paper. All of those efforts have merit on one level or another. I am finding that a majority of the organizations that I interact with have fallen prey to tunnel vision and are focusing solely on COVID-19 with little-to-no consideration of other potential disasters.

Think about how the world has changed because of COVID-19:

  • People are working from home – depending on the internet to accomplish things that they performed in person, in a centralized office before COVID-19.
  • Some of those same people are sheltering away from their homes, with family or in other locations where they may not be thoroughly familiar with local risks and hazards.
  • Physical distancing guidelines are limiting the size of gatherings of people, recommending that individuals stay at least six feet apart from each other.
  • Hospitals in some areas continue to be severely stressed by COVID-19 patients, repurposing resources to meet local demand and running short on critical medications, equipment, and supplies.
  • Other hospitals are almost empty. Laying off staff and reducing operations because protective actions have prevented voluntary medical procedures, which were a primary source of income for the facility.
  • First responders have altered the way they work, changing practices and protocols to protect themselves and their communities from the COVID-19 virus.
  • Emergency Operations Centers across the country have been in continuous operation since January, working to manage the COVID-19 crisis to the best of their ability.

How could these changes impact your crisis readiness?

To paraphrase a line from a popular 12-step program, the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that it exists. COVID-19 has added complexities to managing a crisis while taking measures to protect the health and safety of your people.

  • There has been a marked loss of trust in leadership and “official” sources of information. Multiple survey results are demonstrating that this applies to business leaders as well as elected and appointed officials.
  • People have been living in crisis for weeks, if not months. The emotional and psychological consequences of that prolonged stress are coming to light in surprising ways.
  • Previously centralized organizations are now distributed—sometimes on a national or international scale—with resulting exposures to new or unexpected risks.

2020 is a brave new world. Crisis managers must recognize that the environment is evolving and be prepared to address emergent incidents that may require a new approach. Previous assumptions regarding how individuals and organizations will respond to a crisis may no longer be valid.

So the world has changed. What next?

Whenever anybody asks me that “What’s next?” question, I always think about some advice that my father gave me. When you are overwhelmed and not sure about what to do, go back to the beginning.

1- Start with what you have

Start with your existing plans – reread them and focus on calling out the assumptions that were made the last time that they were revised (because you’re adjusting your plans regularly, right?). Are those assumptions still valid? Do the plans still apply to the new COVID-19 world?

2- Understand the state of your people

After looking at your plans, look at your people. Where are they? How are they handling the prolonged crisis? What are they dependent on to keep going? Are they personally prepared for severe weather or other disruptions?

3- Evaluate the conditions of your community

And finally, look at your communities. How is the world outside of your organization going to respond to an emergency? How will an evacuation work in a COVID-19 world? Will storm shelters be opened? How might hospitals deal with a surge of injured or ill patients?

4- Enhance your crisis readiness

After assessing your current situation, it’s time to adapt and overcome the new challenges of crisis management in a COVID-19 world. As you update your program, consider the following questions.

  • How will a distributed workforce impact your plans?
  • Have you adapted and updated your business continuity/continuity of operations plans?
  • Do you have a plan to manage disruptions in communication?
  • Do you have a plan to protect your personnel who may be in high-risk areas?
  • Do you have a plan and a process to access current, timely information regarding your distributed personnel?
  • Do you know if your personnel are at high-risk for COVID-19, and are your plans adapted to maintain their safety?
  • Do you have a system that can collect and share data to support decision-making?
  • Will your coordination and management processes function across multiple incidents that may be geographically separated?

5- Integrate these new plans and processes into the culture of your organization

The process does not just end once you update your plans and policies to address the new challenges. The next step is to make sure they work seamlessly, remain top of mind when they’re needed, and support your objectives. As a starting point, this includes:

  • Increasing communications across your organization through virtual town-halls, social media platforms, and other relevant platforms for communication in order to coordinate messaging for both internal and external stakeholders. Make sure that you communicate in ways that are clear and easily understood. Your messaging should answer questions and support confidence, not create more problems than when you started.
  • Ensure that your remote personnel have the most up-to-date policies and procedures for crisis operations, that the organization recognizes and meets their training needs, and that they and their families are personally prepared for the severe weather season.

COVID-19 has had significant impacts on all of our lives. With the beginning of the severe weather season for the United States, crisis managers should review existing plans and programs and begin updating their readiness with a focus on changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The requirements for a distributed workforce, physical distancing, and the loss of trust in “official” guidance and leadership have combined to create an entire constellation of new challenges. Don’t let these challenges impact and hinder your readiness. If you are vulnerable to the impending severe weather season, take the above five steps seriously and mitigate some of the risks of further impact in the coming weeks and months—for yourself, your teams, your brand and your community.

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    2 Responses

    1. Don’t forget protests/civil unrest (says the guy who was up monitoring the fortunately peaceful protests in Baltimore until 1 am Eastern today). So important to take all of this into consideration. Stay safe.

      1. Excellent point, Ed. Being Crisis Ready requires an awareness of everything that is going on in the world, within your industry/sector, their impacts, etc. Only when we have awareness and understanding can we truly comprehend the risks and the opportunities that circumstances and situations may present.

        Thanks for weighing in!

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    Melissa Agnes

    FOUNDER AND CEO, CRISIS READY INSTITUTE

    • Recognized globally as an expert, thought-leader and visionary in the field of crisis management.
    • Has worked with global players, including NATO, the Pentagon (DoD), Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, financial firms, technology companies, healthcare organizations, cities and municipalities, law enforcement agencies, aviation organizations, global non-profits, etc.
    • Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World—ranked amongst the leading crisis management books of all time and named as one of the top ten business books of 2018 by Forbes.
    • Creator of the Crisis Ready® Model–which is recognized and being taught as leading industry best practice in universities and higher education curriculums around the world, including at Harvard University.
    • Sits on the panel tasked with developing the International Standard for Crisis Management— ISO 22361, Guidelines for developing a strategic capability.
    • Visiting scholar at D’Youville University, where she co-created and co-teaches a Crisis Ready Program for young college students.
    • Sits on Police Professional Standards, Ethics and Image Committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
    • Global Advisor for The Institute for Strategic Risk Management (ISRM), a global player established to help progress and promote the underlying understanding and capabilities associated with strategic risk and crisis management on a global scale.
    • Leading international keynote speaker on the subject and TEDx alumna.
    • Founder of the Crisis Ready® Community.

    Build for a stronger tomorrow by strengthening your team’s skills in issue management, crisis management, and crisis communication.

    Between the demands of our social impact economy, the divisiveness of society and the many other challenges in front of us, embedding a crisis ready culture is more important than ever before. Having a team that is trained, poised, and empowered to effectively respond to risk, controversy and other threats, will strengthen stakeholder relationships and increase the brand equity of your organization. This is a powerful opportunity. The Crisis Ready® Coaching Program is specifically designed to equip your team with the tools needed today for launching into a stronger tomorrow.

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    Licy Do Canto

    Licy Do Canto, is a veteran of public policy, corporate strategy, health care communications and diversity and inclusion, is managing director of APCO Worldwide’s Washington D.C. office headquarters and mid-Atlantic region lead. Licy is also a Global Advisory Council (GAC) member here at the Crisis Ready Institute and a highly recognized African-American public affairs, lobbyist and communications strategist— recognized by TheHill newspaper for the 11th consecutive year as one of the most influential leaders in Washington, DC.

    As Executive Vice President and Managing Director in the BCW Public Affairs and Crisis practice, Licy drives healthcare and social impact policy and strategy, and helps shape strategic direction on diversity, inclusion and belonging for the firm and its clients across North America, in public and corporate affairs, government relations, communications, crisis and reputation management. Licy also leads the BCW Healthcare Team in Washington, D.C.

    An expert in public affairs, policy and diversity and inclusion, with over twenty five years of experience at the international, national, state and local levels across the nonprofit, philanthropic, corporate and government sectors, Licy is an accomplished, values-driven leader with unparalleled experience in developing and leading integrated public affairs campaigns combining strategic communications, public relations, political/legislative initiatives, policy, coalition building, grassroots efforts and advocacy.

    Before joining BCW, Licy built and lead a nationally recognized minority owned strategic public affairs and communications firm, served as Health Practice Chair and Principal at The Raben Group, was the Chief Executive Officer of The AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth and Families, and managed and helped set the leadership direction for strategic policy, communications, and advocacy investments in executive and senior government affairs roles for the American Cancer Society and the nation’s Community Health Centers.

    Before joining the private sector, Licy was domestic policy advisor to U.S. Congressman Barney Frank and served in several capacities in the Office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. During his extensive tenure in Washington, D.C., Licy has played a leading role in efforts to draft, shape and enact legislation and policy to improve the public health, health care safety net and the lives, livelihoods and well-being of the nation’s disadvantaged and underserved communities. 

    Licy also has worked with Moet Hennessey to drive diversity and inclusion on Wall Street and corporate America. He has partnered with Vice President Al Gore, senior government officials, scientists, NGOs and activists, on global climate change impact and sustainability across Africa. And he was appointed by Republican and Democrat governors to oversee the conservation, preservation and management of a prominent U.S. national historic landmark.

    Licy is a graduate of Duke University and holds a certificate in public health leadership in epidemic preparedness and management from the University of North Chapel Hill—School of Public Health and Kenan Flagler Business School, and is the recipient of multiple industry awards and citations for his leadership, policy and public affairs acumen, including being named to The Hill Newspaper list of most influential  leaders in Washington, D.C. consecutively over the last ten years. As a global citizen, Licy has lived in Turkey and Spain, and is fluent in Spanish and Cape Verdean Portuguese.

    Melissa Agnes

    Recognized globally as an expert, thought leader and visionary in the field of crisis management, Melissa Agnes has worked with global players, including NATO, the Pentagon (DoD), Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, financial firms, technology companies, healthcare organizations, cities and municipalities, law enforcement agencies, aviation organizations, global non-profits, and many others.

    In 2020, Melissa founded Crisis Ready Institute, a public benefit corporate dedicated to creating a crisis ready, crisis-resilient world by elevating industry standards; providing training and certification programs to professionals that better protect people, brands, the environment, and the economy in times of crisis; and promoting and incentivizing organizations and leaders to invest in effective crisis readiness.

    Her book, Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, is taught in dozens of universities around the world, including at Harvard University; is ranked amongst the leading crisis management books of all time, by Book Authority; and was named one of the top ten business books of 2018 by Forbes.

    Melissa is the creator of the Crisis Ready® Model, which is recognized and being taught as leading industry best practice in the fields of crisis management and crisis communication.

    As an in-demand international keynote speaker and a TEDx alumna, Melissa has traveled the world helping organizations and leaders further strengthen their crisis ready mindset, skills and capabilities.

    In 2019, Melissa founded the Crisis Ready® Community, a space for professionals to come together to support one another, collaborate and strengthen their crisis ready skills.

    Melissa sits on the Board of Trustees for D'Youville University, a private University in New York, where she also serves as a visiting scholar for the course she co-created and co-teaches on Crisis Leadership.

    Melissa also sits on the Board of Directors for ZeroNow, a non-profit organization committed to ending harmful events in schools.

    Passionate about serving law enforcement and bridging the trust divide between agencies and the communities they serve, Melissa is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). In 2021 she co-chaired a committee that was tasked with developing a strategy and plan of action to begin managing and overcoming the trust crisis in the U.S.

    In 2019 and 2020, Melissa sat on the panel tasked with developing the International Standard for Crisis Management— ISO 22361, Guidelines for developing a strategic capability.

    Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec (Canada), Melissa currently lives in New York City and enjoys traveling, rollerblading, sailing, and working out when she isn’t working.

    Erick Anez

    Erick Anez is the Global Head of Business Resilience at Finastra. Erick is a proven leader with well over a decade of experience leading change and transformation in the Operational Resilience field.

    His hands-on approach focuses on operational learning, culture, and reputational management. Erick holds a Bachelor of Emergency & Homeland Security, Graduate studies in Security and Disaster Management, is a Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP), Certified Risk Management Professional (CRMP), graduate of the FEMA institute in Incident Management and Command, and is a respected member of Public-Private partnerships within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and  the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

    Some of his most notable achievements in the field include leading the private sector response to Hurricane Maria as well as working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Continuity of Operations (CCOP) projects for mission-critical facilities in the United States. Erick has also trained with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Infectious Disease Planning and community response, including Point of Dispensing initiatives.

    From 2016 to 2019, Erick held several roles at Crowley and, most recently, was the company’s Managing Director of Safety & Resilience. During this time, he was responsible for resilience operations supporting all business segments as well as leading the organization’s safety culture improvement journey. At Crowley, he led the Occupational Health & Safety, Business Continuity, and Crisis Management teams.

    Before joining Crowley, Erick held similar roles at Southwest Gas and Third Federal Savings & Loan.

    Aaron Marks

    Founder and Principal, One Thirty Nine Consulting
    Global Advisory Council Member, Crisis Ready® Institute

    Aaron Marks is the founder and principal of One Thirty Nine Consulting, providing services for small and large businesses in Risk, Crisis, and Consequence Management.

    Supporting both domestic and international clients, he provides operational and subject matter expertise in readiness and preparedness, crisis and incident management, and business and operational continuity for complex systems and organizations.

    Aaron has provided in-depth review, assessment, and analysis for technology, policy, and operational programs for clients in healthcare, critical manufacturing, and entertainment and hospitality, as well as for state, local, tribal, territorial, and federal governments in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. He is a recognized authority on the application of nontraditional techniques and methodologies to meet the unique requirements of training, evaluation, and analytic games and exercise.

    Prior to entering the readiness and preparedness field, Aaron was the Director of Operations for a commercial ambulance and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provider in western New York State where he participated in the integration of commercial EMS and medical transportation resources into the local Trauma System.

    During his 30-year career, Aaron has worked in almost every aspect of EMS except fleet services. This includes experience in Hazardous Materials and Tactical Medicine, provision of prehospital care in urban, suburban, rural, and frontier environments, and acting as a team leader for both ground and aeromedical Critical Care Transport Teams.

    Aaron is a FEMA Master Exercise Practitioner and received a B.A. in Psychology from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and a master’s degree in Public Administration with a focus in Emergency Management from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama. He is also a Nationally Registered Paramedic and currently practices as an Assistant Chief with the Amissville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, Amissville Virginia.

    Chris Hsiung

    Chris is the 11th Police Chief of the Mountain View Police Department, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. For more than 25 years, he has served the Mountain View community, and as the department’s leader, is passionate about maintaining MVPD’s role as a progressive law enforcement organization in the 21st century.

    Chris is an internationally recognized speaker and columnist on the areas of crisis communications, critical incident management, leadership, and engagement with stakeholder groups. In his time with Mountain View PD, Chris has held a variety of investigative, tactical, and leadership roles, serving in every division in the organization. He is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Senior Executives in State and Local Government program and has a master’s degree in eBusiness Management from Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont, CA.

    Chris also serves in several leadership positions on multiple boards, including as president on the Government Social Media Leadership Council and committee member on the IACP's Professional Standards, Ethics, and Image Committee. Previously, Chris served as a board member for the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center and two terms as a commissioner on the City of San Mateo Community Relations Commission.

    You can connect with him on Twitter @Chief_Hsiung or LinkedIn.

    Ashley Davis

    Ashley is a Brand and Marketing Strategist who partners with CEOs, executives and solopreneurs to grow their personal and professional brands. After spending over a decade working in strategic communications for multimillion dollar brands and startups, Ashley knows what truly drives conversations, builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their stakeholder groups and attracts strong strategic partnerships.

    Ashley has helped organizations and leaders increase employee awareness and overall understanding of the company vision. She has strong experience / knowledge of social media tools and techniques for driving awareness, reputation and brand—and is known for advancing a company's messaging in the marketplace by growing the following of now multiple multimillion dollar brands and startups.

    Ashley has served as the Editor of monthly all employee publications by managing the planning, writing and production. She is an integral part of new product launches and is frequently engaged to train entire sales teams along with channel / distribution partners on new product launches. In addition to her extensive experience, Ashley is a trained business coach.

    Ashley holds a BA in Global Business Management from the University of Phoenix.

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