Incident management is a small but significant part of your company’s business continuity management programme. Incident management refers to the procedures designed to respond to those incidents which have the potential to disrupt and cause significant damage to your company and its ability to continue trading.
What incidents can damage my business?
An incident can be anything from loss of IT services, to a natural disaster which destroys or damages your premises and equipment. Incidents can come from within your own company, or from a vital link in your supply chain, or be totally out of your, or anyone else’s, control.
Why is incident management important?
Managing your company through an incident means you are able to get back trading as soon as possible, safeguarding the future of your company and of those who depend on your company to make a living. Ensuring your business has policies, and people, in place to deal with issues raised by disruptive incidents will give your business the best chance of surviving the ordeal. Managing an incident may be a process which takes anything from a few minutes to a few years. The aftermath of the Piper Alpha disaster of 1988, for example, went beyond the two-and-a-half years it spent in inquiry, with families of victims and survivors reporting psychological problems some ten years later.
Good incident management gives the right people the power to spot and handle minor incidents before they escalate into a major disaster. Incident management policies for all types and sizes of potential incidents should be a significant part of your business continuity management programme.
How can you plan for something you can’t foresee?
The idea of incident management is not to predict every possible incident your company could experience, but to set policies for how to handle incidents according to type.
For example, planning for an isolated but serious incident such as a fire in your premises, will provide a structure for how to handle similar events, such as chemical leaks.
What can I prepare in advance?
Staff – each member of staff knowing what their role is in case of emergency will save heaps of valuable time when disaster strikes. For some staff, the protocol may be to carry on as normal, helping to safeguard your company’s normal operations and keeping valuable customers. For others, job descriptions may change beyond recognition, even if just for a short period of time. In any case, all staff should know who to report to, and what is expected of them.
It may be that your management structure needs to change under times of stress. The right people to run your company under normal circumstances may not be effective during an incident. Running a business for long-term profitability and security requires different skills from directing a business through a short-term shock.
Drills and rehearsals – You can’t really predict how an incident will pan out in the real world but you can prepare for specific aspects of it. For example, you won’t know how a fire will take hold of your building, but you can practise evacuation. A fire drill will help identify potential problem areas, allowing you to hone your plans, or change them completely. Until you’ve tried evacuating dozens of people from your premises, you really don’t know how it will work, so plan in drills for scenarios you can rehearse and be confident that all will be as well as can be in case of an incident.
Communication – In all cases, effective communication is important. Whether you’re facing the injury or death of an employee on your premises, a natural disaster, or loss of a major supplier, your company’s reputation could be at risk. News travels fast, especially in this age of social media. You need to have an incident communication policy which sets out who is responsible for talking to the media, and how that news will be communicated. You may need to update your company’s social media policy so that all news can be handled by your designated communication official, preventing other staff from reporting incorrect or damaging news through their own social media channels.
Incident management is hopefully something you will never need to do, but good planning can help you through those incidents you are unlucky enough to meet, and also set up good practice which will become an integral part of your business continuity management.