Monday, April 20, 2015


What happens when your head office is compromised in a major crisis? You must leave your building and can't return for some time. This can happen as a result of a natural disaster, a man-made disaster, a systems collapse or an energy failure.  All of a sudden there is a need to move to temporary or new premises.

During a crisis exercise workshop, one of the first questions for the Crisis Management Team is:  "Where would you manage the crisis from if you couldn’t manage it from here?"  

Probably the most important element of any Team Leader’s responsibility is to ensure that the organisation can continue to function even though it experiences a major incident or accident.

Losing your building, your office, your site, your location or your precinct, should be an essential element of risk recovery planning.  The fundamental element in this situation is the back-up premises.  The time to prepare for this is well before an emergency occurs, not when an emergency occurs. 

Long before the horrendous World Trade Centre catastrophe, in one of the worst terrorist attacks in the City of London, the Commercial Union building was literally blown to pieces.  This Head Office building was rendered totally inoperable.  Three people lost their lives and 30 people were injured.  Almost immediately, the huge British insurance company was able to locate alternate premises. 

Their temporary crisis management team moved to a specifically identified location and managed the crisis issues from that office while the company set up an empty building to move all their staff and management into over a weekend.  Telephones, computers and communication systems were rapidly brought on line and staff were contacted about the move to this new location and briefed on the changing situation that had rendered their normal office unusable.

Their recovery plan allowed the firm to get back in business virtually over a weekend.      

Some organisations have made their crisis management team and its facilities portable.  In other words, they have prepared a comprehensive crisis and recovery transportable unit for dealing with a situation that prevents them from using their normal crisis control room.  The portable unit (a crisis case) allows them to respond quickly at any location with the appropriate equipment and supplies such as mobile and sat. phones, manuals, contact lists, maps and checklists.

Organisations that want to keep their losses to a minimum and need to take immediate control of a crisis situation, should identify alternative premises to manage a crisis well in advance.  These premises can take a number of forms:
1.   Close sites.  These can be alternative and temporary premises close by.  Usually these premises are linked with sufficient immediate communication access to the organisation’s main line of information.  This allows a switch-over to support the database and telephone system.
2.  Friendly neighbours.  This is a back-up site for full or temporary operation.  It might not have the immediate technical communication lines to link computers and telephones, but can give immediate access to key stakeholders and is still within close access to the original operation.

3.   Corporate regional office location.  This can be one of your organisation’s offices that is located some distance from the original organisation location.  It provides “hot”, instantaneous links to databases, telephones and email, but takes you away from the location of your crisis.

4.  The portable location.  This is more a mobile situation which has been pre-organised to give you an ongoing temporary back-up facility.  It can be set up from suitcases, in a van, bus or local hotel, and can provide the necessary switch-over to back up databases, telephones and communication systems.   This unit is often used by the transport industry and emergency services for managing protracted events that happen at distant and inaccessible locations.