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Effective Crisis Management

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A crisis can cause significant disruption and damage to an organization. But effective management of crises can preserve operational continuity and restore normal service as quickly as possible, limiting the damage to a company’s reputation and bottom line. In this article, AIU Online, provider of an online Bachelor of Criminal Justice in Homeland Security and Crisis Management, presents five tips for actions companies can take before, during, and after a crisis to ensure they’re prepared to cope when things go drastically wrong.

Build Relationships Before A Crisis

It’s important for management to establish good relationships with employees, their families, and the surrounding community. This ensures what one researcher calls “a reservoir of good will” when crisis strikes. It also ensures that management and employees who must work together to handle an emergency already have good communication channels in place, along with a sense of loyalty and responsibility to one another.

People who respect one another are more likely to operate smoothly under pressure. And an organization that’s respected by its users and surrounding community is more likely to continue to win business during a recovery period than one that isn’t.

Plan Ahead

While nobody can anticipate everything that could cause a crisis in the workplace, it’s certainly possible to brainstorm the most common and build plans that work around them. Common scenarios might include:

  • Medical emergency for staff member or customer
  • Severe weather event trapping staff at office
  • Computer system failure or security breach
  • Break-in or robbery
  • Fights or assaults on staff members

For each scenario, a crisis management plan should be developed that delegates specific roles to key personnel, along with emergency contact information for executives or managers who need to be informed of what’s happening when they’re out of the office. Plans should be updated every six months to ensure contact details and personnel designations remain current.

Practice, Practice, Practice

It’s no good nominating a crisis team and developing a detailed plan if time isn’t spent training staff members and simulating an emergency situation. Taking two half-days a year to do this can mean employees don’t panic as much when a real crisis occurs.

A good training session may include:

  • Evacuation practice (such as a fire drill)
  • Using equipment such as emergency lights and phones
  • Practicing first-aid skills
  • Testing alarm or security systems
  • Role-playing crisis scenarios (e.g., violent customer)
Don’t Dawdle

As soon as something appears to be going wrong, put emergency plans into action. Most emergency situations will “snowball” if not dealt with quickly—that is, they will trigger other crises elsewhere in the organization. Management must make sure emergency plans are designed to enable quick decision-making on the part of their crisis teams. For instance, plans should ensure:

  • That employees have the ability to shut down computer or other systems in an emergency
  • That crisis team leaders have access to company funds
  • That local law enforcement and emergency response teams have clear directions to the business location ahead of time

Finally, managers should ensure that key personnel chosen to lead crisis teams have demonstrated level-headedness and tough decision making under pressure in the past.

Re-Evaluate and Retool

Following a crisis, a debriefing should take place that explains how and why the emergency occurred and steps that could have been taken to prevent it. The debriefing also offers an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of emergency plans and revise them to reflect hard-earned experience.

This article is presented by American InterContinental University, a provider of career-focused degree programs. Students can also study on our Virtual Campus at AIU Online. Find out more at