Written by Michael Bugenhagen, FEI Business Development Manager

I recall an exercise in which human resources was reviewing aspects of their family assistance support. An HR member was identified as a direct family liaison for the wife of an injured worker. The HR member and wife had daily interaction. After 21 days in the hospital, the husband passed away.

While the primary concern is with the family of the deceased employee, what is the secondary impact on the HR team member? How do they continue to offer support when they, too, are in need of support during the situation? Although this scenario is rare, it clearly demonstrates the need to provide staff with crisis support.

In the stressful and chaotic environment of a disaster, organizations can sometimes overlook the deep impact a crisis has on employees and their families, not to mention the potential impact on vendors and customers. While companies have worked with crisis consultants on an “all hazards” approach to business continuity, the focus is predominately on prevention and recovery of infrastructure. Unfortunately, the human element of planning is all too often pushed to the backburner. 

Human resources and business leaders are now recognizing this oversight. Some of the areas that require additional attention when considering the human side of crisis include:

  • Quick and accurate notification.
  • Ability to promptly account for people.
  • Procedures for communicating with those impacted and their family members.
  • Establishment of family reunification or assistance centers.
  • Identification of staff, and training of staff member(s), to communicate with the media/public. Communicating during a crisis event is an entirely different experience from communicating during a regular, everyday kind of event.
  • Building a care team that understands how to support impacted people while also managing their own emotions and/or the traumatic impact of an event.
  • Having a partner experienced in planning for, and responding to, crisis events.

Let’s take a closer look at that last point. While some organizations have internal teams designed for crisis management, it’s worth considering partnering with a professional third party that has a proven history of expertise so preventative measures can be as fruitful as possible.

Such external experts will aid organizations and their internal teams with:

  • Organizational risk assessment;
  • Consultation on current needs;
  • Emergency response plan review and/or benchmarking against best practices for the industry;
  • Preparedness exercises (critical tasks, tabletops or full-scale); and
  • Training.

When was the last time you considered the human element of crisis response? During an event, will you be able to handle incoming calls from employees, family members, customers, vendors or other concerned stakeholders? Can you support your workforce if they’re impacted by the response? Or would a qualified external partner bring value?

If you’re looking for answers to any of these questions, please contact me today and I’ll make sure your employees are given the support they need in the event of a traumatic incident.