In light of the sudden collapse of the condominium building in Surfside, Florida in June of this year, every design firm should think about what they would do in a crisis. While sudden catastrophic failures are very rare, each firm should go through the steps of planning different scenarios that are specific to their practices. A crisis management plan will describe how your business will react to a crisis, including who will be involved and what they will do. The goal of such a plan is to shorten and lessen the impact of the crisis, preserve operations and productivity as much as possible, and safeguard your firm’s reputation.
To develop the plan, you first need to outline the crisis scenarios that your firm could face. You should consider a broad range of crises, such as a cyber-attack, technology failure, or catastrophic failure at a construction site on one of your projects. The next step is to plan how you will respond to the various scenarios, including assigning responsibility for each task. You should identify the resources that will be needed during the crisis, such as credit cards (depending on the crisis), account information, and flowcharts of key processes and procedures.
Once you have developed your plan, it is important to include triggers for the crisis management tasks. The first natural response to an emergency is often paralysis, but the firm’s first learned response should be to refer to the plan. There should be clear chains of command to make sure that your response is coordinated. The plan should also have internal and external communication plans. The internal communication plan should have contact information for all crisis team members as well as anyone they might need to call upon, including outside consultants. You should also establish protocols to inform your employees, providing updates as necessary. The external communication plan should establish how you will communicate with the public and key external stakeholders.
It is essential that the firm hold exercises to check that the crisis management plan will work in real life. Crisis team members should be trained on their roles and responsibilities. The plan should be updated periodically to make sure that it is current and reflects the latest risk environment. If you are hit with an actual crisis, you should analyze what went well, what did not, and implement any necessary changes.
Sudden catastrophic collapses are very rare. A crisis management plan is a prudent step for all design firms so that they have a plan to turn to just in case it happens. More in-depth resources and planning toolkits are available through Ready, “a National public service campaign designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters.”