The Summer of Crisis

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It’s been a hard summer

 

From the Manchester Arena bombings to Grenfell Towers, it has been a summer of crisis.

 

It’s been an unusually difficult couple of months but sadly catastrophes come along regularly.

 

They come in many forms from natural disasters to horrific accidents, from acts of terror to major crimes. Whatever form they take we’re talking about huge events that will rock your community.

 

They can’t be predicted but you can prepare for them. And all councils do, some even have entire emergency planning departments. But what can civic leaders do to help in a crisis? How can they prepare?

 

Representing the council during the tough times

 

As the face of the council some will turn to you expecting to hear how the council is responding. As a community leader people will turn to you for inspiration and cohesion.

 

So, let’s take a look at what you can do to help your council communicate and your community come together when the worst happens.

 

Crisis management plan

 

During times of crisis many of your council’s departments will use prepared, coordinated and often rehearsed plans to respond. If you want to help with communicating the council’s message then you’ll need to know what the plan is.

 

So, the first thing you need to do is get in touch with your comms department and find out what the crisis management plan is.

 

You could wait until it all goes wrong or you could be proactive and ask them about it straight away. Now is the best time to check if they can find it and that it’s not out of date.

 

Important caveat

 

Your council may have rules about how you communicate with the press. Make sure you’re familiar with these and follow them even in a crisis. If you’re in any doubt speak to someone from the civic office or the council’s communication team.

 

Silence isn’t golden

 

The golden rule of crisis management is to communicate often and early. It can be tempting to wait until you are in possession of all the facts but people will want to know now what you can tell them.

 

Obviously if you don’t have the full picture stress this. And it goes without saying that you shouldn’t offer facts unless you know that they’re true, don’t get drawn into wild speculation.

 

Most of all be visible. If you can, get out into the community and talk to people. Civic leaders should be community leaders, you should be there to help rally the troops and even get your hands dirty.

 

Don’t forget social media

 

It’s important not to forget about social media. It’s becoming the main source of news for some people, this is only heightened during crises. If people have no electricity or the telephones are down their mobile phone could be their only means of communication. In addition, news stories usually break quicker on social media so people often go to those even before 24-hour news.

 

If you have a social media presence then make sure you use it to share information in a crisis. If you don’t maybe it’s time to think about getting one.

 

You can’t see them coming

 

You can’t foresee most crises but you can get ready for them. It’s simple, if you don’t know when they’ll arrive you better start preparing now. That way you’ll have as much control as you can.

 

Manage what you can

 

If you do find yourself caught up in a crisis remember these key points:

 

  • Know the plan is and stick to it
  • Offer facts and communicate as early as you can
  • Be visible for your community
  • Don’t forget social media

 

I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen to you but I also know many civic leaders who have found themselves at the centre of national and even global crises.

 

If nothing else this summer should have made you think “what would I do if that was my community?”. Take some time to do a little preparation and then pray you don’t ever need to use it.

Duncan Bhaskaran BrownThe Summer of Crisis

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