How to Develop a Crisis Response Plan (Step-by-Step)

  • By: Josh Palmer
  • April 24, 2024
Crisis Response Plan
Reading Time: 3 minutes

In business, a crisis can be a physical, digital, personal, or public disaster. There are many types of crises, and your board of directors should be prepared to deal with all of them. A crisis response plan makes it possible to act quickly and minimize the harm caused by any type of crisis, from the most likely to the most damaging. 

In many cases, a crisis can put your business continuity at risk. A well-prepared crisis response plan can ensure your business operations are protected or resumed quickly and efficiently. Every board should take the time to develop a crisis response plan which encompasses every potential type of crisis that the business might face.

What is Crisis Response?

When a crisis occurs, the first priority is to take immediate action to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals and assets. This is referred to as crisis stabilization. 

Crisis response is the phase of crisis management that involves implementing various plans and strategies to address and mitigate the impact of an unexpected event or emergency situation. It can encompass a range of actions aimed at managing the immediate consequences of the crisis.

A company’s crisis response plan typically consists of several plans to address each type of crisis that can occur. For example, the crisis response plan for a building fire will be different from your response plan for a ransomware attack. However, in both cases, you need to follow the same steps to build an appropriate plan.

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Benefits of a Crisis Response Plan

Crisis response planning provides the guidance, training, and resources your company needs to ensure that each crisis does the least damage possible to the company’s operations, assets, and people. Having a crisis response plan in place before a crisis occurs offers many benefits in that critical moment, including:

  • Increased Preparedness: A crisis response plan helps organizations prepare for unexpected events by identifying potential risks and mitigation strategies. 
  • Improved Response Time: Having a predefined crisis response plan allows organizations to respond more quickly and decisively when a crisis occurs.
  • Resource Optimization: By identifying resource needs and preplanning response activities, organizations can better allocate resources appropriately. 

How to Develop a Crisis Response Plan

In order to protect your business from unforeseen events, a board should develop a crisis response plan using the following steps: 

1. Risk Assessment and Scenario Planning

Begin by assessing potential crises and their risks to your company. Arrange risks according to their likeliness to occur and the potential harm they could cause to the company. 

Then, identify the scenarios in which these crises might occur. Consider the relevant factors such as the season, environment, location, or conditions in which the crisis is most likely, could do the most damage, or could occur at all.

2. Establish a Crisis Management Team

Build a team of people with assigned roles who will take action when a crisis occurs. Business leaders and leadership down the org chart should know their roles in each type of crisis. 

For example, an executive chairman may take charge of activating a secondary office location while team leaders may be responsible for getting employees out of the building in case of a fire. Your IT lead will take charge in a cybersecurity attack, but your PR liaison may lead the way in a publicity crisis.

3. Develop Response Procedures and Protocols

Consider the correct course of action for each crisis intervention. In case of a fire, the steps may involve evacuation, fire suppression, and renovation, with arrangements for temporary office space or at-home work during restorations. In the event of a cybersecurity attack, steps may involve malware isolation, wiping affected machines to restore them from backup, and a follow-up security assessment.

You must also determine the scope of the crisis response team, which includes what type of crises they can handle, their level of authority, and communication protocols. Define what they are equipped to handle versus when they should outsource to law enforcement, behavioral health, or other qualified professionals.

4. Training and Exercises

Your crisis response team needs more than just a memo to respond swiftly in a crisis. Training is important. For the same reason that we do fire drills a few times a year, it is vital that both crisis response leaders and their teams go through training and exercises to ensure they are ready to act swiftly when a crisis occurs.

5. Review and Update Regularly

A crisis management plan is not a “set it and forget it” matter. Because tools, resources, and risks are constantly changing, it is important to review and update your crisis response plans regularly.

OnBoard Powers Effective Emergency Response

Devising an effective crisis response plan requires many meetings and plan drafts. OnBoard’s board portal platform provides features to assist with everything from agenda creation and taking minutes to securely storing crisis management plans.

Enabled by the purpose-built platform, teams can plan and execute both scheduled and emergency board meetings.

Download our free board meeting minutes template for a guide to structuring minutes to accurately and legally reflect what occurred in the meeting.

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About The Author

Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer serves as OnBoard's Head of Content. An experienced content creator, his previous roles have spanned numerous industries including B2C and B2B home improvement, healthcare, and software-as-a-service (SaaS). An Indianapolis native and graduate of Indiana University, Palmer currently resides in Fishers, Ind.