Leading People Through Disasters

Preparing for and Dealing With the Human Side of Crises

Kathryn McKee (Author) | Liz Guthridge (Author)

Publication date: 07/13/2006

Leading People Through Disasters
  • Focuses on the human side of disaster planning and recovery
  • Prescribes a definitive course of action based on real-world examples
  • Includes sample forms, checklists, and a wealth of other practical tools
  • Learn more at www.LeadingPeopleThroughDisasters.com

Focuses on the human side of disaster planning and recovery

Prescribes a definitive course of action based on real-world examples

Includes sample forms, checklists, and a wealth of other practical tools

Learn more at www.LeadingPeopleThroughDisasters.com

Sooner or later, most organizations will face some kind of disaster--flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake, workplace violence, bombings, even the arrest or sudden death of the CEO. Existing books on crisis management deal almost exclusively with physical breakdowns, logistics issues, data losses and environmental and economic impacts. But it is people who actually make a business run, and Leading People Through Disasters is the first book to deal with the all-important human side of recovery.

Kathryn McKee and Liz Guthridge show how to ensure that your business continuity plan addresses human as well as business issues and they offer detailed advice on what to do when disaster actually strikes--how to keep people safe, calm, and informed; help managers care for employees; and deal with employees' immediate and ongoing emotional and psychological needs while getting the organization back on its feet. This comprehensive guide features a wealth of examples, checklists, forms, and other practical tools that will help you take action when you need it most.

  • Focuses on the human side of disaster planning and recovery
  • Prescribes a definitive course of action based on real-world examples
  • Includes sample forms, checklists, and a wealth of other practical tools
  • Learn more at www.LeadingPeopleThroughDisasters.com

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Overview

  • Focuses on the human side of disaster planning and recovery
  • Prescribes a definitive course of action based on real-world examples
  • Includes sample forms, checklists, and a wealth of other practical tools
  • Learn more at www.LeadingPeopleThroughDisasters.com

Focuses on the human side of disaster planning and recovery

Prescribes a definitive course of action based on real-world examples

Includes sample forms, checklists, and a wealth of other practical tools

Learn more at www.LeadingPeopleThroughDisasters.com

Sooner or later, most organizations will face some kind of disaster--flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake, workplace violence, bombings, even the arrest or sudden death of the CEO. Existing books on crisis management deal almost exclusively with physical breakdowns, logistics issues, data losses and environmental and economic impacts. But it is people who actually make a business run, and Leading People Through Disasters is the first book to deal with the all-important human side of recovery.

Kathryn McKee and Liz Guthridge show how to ensure that your business continuity plan addresses human as well as business issues and they offer detailed advice on what to do when disaster actually strikes--how to keep people safe, calm, and informed; help managers care for employees; and deal with employees' immediate and ongoing emotional and psychological needs while getting the organization back on its feet. This comprehensive guide features a wealth of examples, checklists, forms, and other practical tools that will help you take action when you need it most.

  • Focuses on the human side of disaster planning and recovery
  • Prescribes a definitive course of action based on real-world examples
  • Includes sample forms, checklists, and a wealth of other practical tools
  • Learn more at www.LeadingPeopleThroughDisasters.com

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Kathryn McKee

Kathryn McKee, SPHR, is President of Human Resources Consortia, a consulting firm. Previously, when she was Senior Vice President of Human Resources for First Interstate Bank Limited, her company was hit by six disasters in seven years. Find out more at www.leadingpeoplethroughdisasters.com.



Visit Author Page - Liz Guthridge

Liz Guthridge, founder of Connect Consulting Group LLC, is a coach, consultant and facilitator. She works with leaders to turn their blue-sky ideas into greener-pasture actions. She helps them clarify their thoughts, plans and actions so they can inspire others to get involved and achieve their mutual goals. Liz applies her expertise in applied neuroscience, behavior design and mindful communications.  Find out more at www.connectconsultinggroup.com and www.leadingpeoplethroughdisasters.com.

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Table of Contents



Foreword
Preface
Prologue

Part One: Planning for Disasters
Chapter 1: Preparing to Lead in the Face of Fear
Chapter 2: Developing a Business Continuity Plan That Addresses Human Issues
Chapter 3: Creating Contingent HR Policies

Part Two: Dealing with Disasters
Chapter 4: Taking Care of Employees
Chapter 5: Guiding Managers and HR Staff
Chapter 6: Balancing the Needs of Employees with the Need to Return to Work
Chapter 7: Restabilizing Yourself and the Organization
Chapter 8: Building Resiliency while Helping Hearts and Minds to Heal
Chapter 9: Starting to Prepare Now – Five-Minute Planning Steps

Resources
Literature and Websites
An Outline for Business Continuity Planning
A Sample Telephone Tree
A Sample Wallet Card
Employee Emergency Response Procedures
Suggested Actions to Take at Home

Notes
Acknowledgments
Index
About the Authors

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Excerpt

Leading People Through Disasters

Chapter 1
Preparing to Lead in the Face of Fear

This chapter covers four topics:

When planning for a disaster:


  • Identifying the players as well as their roles and responsibilities for planning
  • Recognizing the competencies (such as skills, knowledge, and attributes) that can help you be an effective leader

When dealing with a disaster:


  • Reviewing the roles and responsibilities of the various players
  • Understanding what leadership competencies are necessary in the face of fear, especially in a disaster situation

Overview

On a scale of 1 to 10, how prepared are you to deal with a disaster befalling your organization? Are you ready to lead your employees through it? Are you geared up to deal with a hurricane, fire, flood, tornado, murder, chemical spill, act of corporate malfeasance, flu pandemic, terrorist attack, or some other type of disaster?

On second thought, maybe you’d prefer to close this book and take a pleasure trip. How about a cruise down the Mississippi River, where you’ll end up in New Orleans? You’ll find yourself in the state of Louisiana, which in August 2005 was actually “the state of denial,” according to Charles Pizzo and Gerard Braud, two crisis communications experts and Hurricane Katrina victims. “And if you’re not thinking about or planning what you might do in a crisis situation now, you’re in a state of denial too. There are just too many risks out there,” Pizzo warns.

One good sign that you’re not in the state of denial is that you have this book open. We hope you’re ready for the challenge. Our goal is to excite you to action so you will take a leadership role within your organization and prepare for the worst, with the hope that nothing bad actually happens. However, the odds are that you will face some kind of minor or major crisis in the course of your work life.


Preparing for a Disaster

Identifying the Players and Their Roles and Responsibilities

In business continuity planning, one of the critical leadership tasks is defining the roles and responsibilities of the key members of management who will be involved in planning for and managing a disaster. This section details the processes to be carried out by individuals in the roles of CEO, CFO, Human Resources Director, Communications Officer, and other selected members of the management team. The job titles and organizational structure of your company may differ from the generic positions described here, but this summary will give you an idea of the division of responsibilities.

Most senior executive: Chief Executive Officer/ General Manager/other title

  • Mandates the development and implementation of a business continuity plan
  • Appoints the core team, announcing and expressing confidence in its members and emphasizing their delegation to a high level of independent thinking
  • Meets with the core team from time to time for updates and to offer advice and counsel

Incident Commander

  • Reports to the CEO
  • Develops the Incident Command System, which specifies who will do what tasks in the case of an incident (emergency, crisis, disaster, catastrophe, etc.)
  • Takes charge in case of a disaster and is the sole contact with emergency responders, such as firefighters, police, and hazmat (hazardous materials) team
  • Addresses the media on-site covering the disaster, as he or she is on the line and has the most up-to-date information on the situation, unless another individual is designated to be the spokesperson

Chief Financial Officer/Controller/other title for financial executive

  • Works with the core team to develop the business case for planning, including the return on investment. Consider the costs of planning, such as:
    • Possible use of an outside expert on emergency preparedness or business continuity planning
    • Downtime (i.e., time away from job duties, spent in meetings, information gathering, etc.; or due to dislocation of work or loss of property) and its impact on the profitability or viability of the business
    • Materials, equipment, and supplies, including food and water, cots, blankets, radiophones, walkie-talkies, satellite phones, extra cell phones, 800 number for an employee “cool line,” and special website
    • Possible off-site space for an emergency operations center (see Chapter 2)
    • Backup information technology and telecommunications systems
    • Trauma counseling or Employee Assistance Program

(EAP) (see Prologue and Chapter 8 ) and returning employees to reasonable levels of productivity

Core team

The core team will develop the strategies and policies that will be used to develop contingency plans for a short business interruption (e.g., a few hours); a disaster, where business is interrupted for a few days; and a major catastrophe, where business is interrupted for the foreseeable future, with no identifiable end date. Core team members and their responsibilities are:

Human Resources


  • Working with the core team to identify the Incident Commander and others who will take charge in case of a disaster
  • Defining roles and responsibilities for the various individuals who will staff the Emergency Operations Center (see Chapter 2 )
  • Developing contingency plans for the relocation of employees under a variety of scenarios
  • Instructing the core team about Human Resources philosophy and how the organization can care for its workforce through contingent HR policies, as well as developing contingency HR policies (explained in Chapter 3 )
  • Developing the executive emergency contact list, which specifies who gets alerted and when
  • Arranging for the contingent use of external behavioral health consultants or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (see Chapter 8 )
  • Developing a telephone tree or other electronic notification system along with collateral materials so that employees at all levels of the organization know whom to call, where to go, when to stay home, and what other actions to take
  • Ascertaining the need to deploy staff in other parts of the United States or the world to keep the business running

Safety Officer or security (if applicable)


  • Developing a variety of scenarios that could result in business interruption and coordinating these scenarios with communications facilities
  • Developing evacuation procedures as well as specific procedures for such disasters as a fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, chemical spill, or explosion, and setting up a “shelter in place” (i.e., a place in the facility where employees can go for shelter rather than leaving the facility and risking exposure)

Operations/production (if applicable)


  • Developing contingency plans for inventory, manufacturing, distribution, and other functions in case of evacuation
  • Identifying a location to borrow or rent space
  • Determining the feasibility of moving the warehouse, production, and distribution functions
  • Analyzing the consequences of a short- or medium-term inability to deliver products/services to customers

Communications


  • Creating a crisis communications plan that dovetails with the business continuity plan and includes key messages for each scenario in the business continuity plan
  • Developing a media strategy for minor and major crises
  • Working closely with the Incident Commander to determine who will serve as the company spokesperson, depending on the situation, and clarify who speaks, when, and to whom, internally and externally; also, providing advance media training for these individuals, if needed
  • Maintaining ongoing good relations with the press, especially the radio and TV newscasters in the local markets, and preparing press releases and organizing press conferences as necessary
  • Developing employee communication templates and determining the best distribution system for the communications under different disaster scenarios
  • Working with the Safety Officer to develop response plans for a variety of disaster scenarios (e.g., short- or long-term power outage, explosion, chemical spill, or other foreseeable event, given the type of business) and coordinating closely with other core team members as well as with the entire planning team
  • Coordinating closely with HR and Safety officers when a disaster strikes

Business continuity planning team

This team develops detailed business continuity plans and tactics for each major function in the organization. For an outline of the topics to be considered, refer to the Resources section on page 141. Depending on the management structure, functions also may include:

Information technology


  • Developing system backup plans and arranging for backup sites for data storage
  • Developing backup plans for all telecommunications devices, including instructions on how phone lines are to be redirected to other sites and the establishment of toll-free numbers
  • Developing IT network backup plans and testing protocols

Engineering, marketing, sales, and customer relations


  • Developing specific business continuity plans
  • Agreeing to take direction from the Incident Commander initially, when disaster strikes, and until the Incident Commander returns control to the management hierarchy
  • Confirming that functional managers have made appropriate plans and have the necessary supplies to take care of employees

Legal


  • Ensuring that the plan complies with federal and state safety and security regulations
  • Verifying that workplace laws and regulations have been addressed (provisions for disabled employees, confidentiality of records, etc.)

Competent Business Planning Leadership

Leadership qualities for business continuity planning, as for any other aspect of business, start with the basics: your self-image and your attitude about what you know and what you can do. Do you see yourself as a leader or a follower? Do you take the initiative or do you suffer from the “dancing school syndrome,” waiting to be asked?

The self-assessment grid starting on page 28 offers a good starting point for you to take stock of your leadership skills.

What drives leaders?

There is nothing more exhilarating than to be in the presence of great leaders. They motivate you to go where you did not even know you wanted to go. They inspire a shared vision, model the way, enable others to act, and encourage the heart.1 What is it within people that enables them not just to lead well in normal times but, when faced with a crisis, to quickly overcome their own fear and shock and rise to the occasion, leading their people through the difficulty that is facing them?

What competencies (i.e., skills, knowledge attributes, and abilities) constitute leadership? Are different sets of skills and behaviors required for preparing and leading, versus responding in the face of a disaster? What does it take to face your own fear and, in spite of it, lead others through the crisis to the successful conclusion and beyond?

Wayne Brockbank is a partner with David Ulrich and others in charge of the 30,000-case Human Resource Competency model, which is featured in Ulrich’s Human Resource Champions (1997) and Brockbank and Ulrich’s Competencies for the New HR (2003). Dr. Brockbank spent some time with us to answer the question “What capabilities does one need to lead the business continuity planning and preparation phase?” He suggested that the following competencies are needed in the planning process:


See Table


Dealing with a Disaster

Roles and Responsibilities

Your worst fears have been realized: Your organization is facing a disaster—a flash flood, chemical spill, or, even worse, an explosion and building collapse—that occurred late at night, so only the security guards were on the premises and, luckily, none of them was injured. What must be done and who will do it?

CEO


  • Works with the Incident Commander, who has ordered the opening of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC, discussed in Chapter 2 ) in a space off-site
  • May be relocated to the EOC to be able to continue to resolve business issues
  • Provides the media with information developed by the Communications Officer
  • Is accessible to employees to provide reassurance and demonstrate decisive leadership

Incident Commander


  • Takes charge of managing the incident (crisis, disaster, etc.)
  • Contacts emergency responders and solely provides direction
  • May assign a second-in-command to run the EOC while he or she is at the site of the disaster
  • Runs the disaster team, including representatives from operations, safety, Human Resources, and communications
  • Provides instantaneous, up-to-date, and accurate public information to the media from an on-site vantage point
  • Returns managing responsibilities to the management hierarchy as soon as practicable

Chief Financial Officer

• May be assigned to the EOC as a team member

Head of operations/production

• May be assigned to the EOC as a team member

Human Resources

May have a department member assigned to the EOC

  • HR leader assesses the situation with Incident Commander and CEO, and makes recommendations regarding employee needs
  • Depending on the severity of the situation, HR leader recommends implementation of contingent policies (discussed in Chapter 3 )
  • Assigns staff to 24-hour coverage of telephone “cool line” and other electronic communications to answer employee questions, assuage fears, and the like

A “cool line” is a specific 800 number that employees can access for honest answers to their questions; it also serves as a “rumor control” center. This frees up the emergency hotline to disseminate directions for what to do, when, and where.


  • May recommend all-hands meeting(s) to reassure employees and give them up-to-the-minute information
  • May recommend individual or group counseling or screening depending on the severity of the situation (more on this in Chapter 8 )

Communications Officer


  • Works with the Incident Commander and CEO to make sure the organization speaks with one voice and delivers a message that is consistent and clear
  • Prepares and distributes appropriate communications pieces for external audiences, including media, customers, vendors/ suppliers, and investors
  • Partners with HR to refine and distribute employee communications appropriate for the severity and duration of the disaster

Planning team members


  • Put the detailed plans spelled out in the official business continuity document into operation
  • As required, may be assigned to the EOC or to other duties as spelled out in the plan

Employees


  • Follow the instructions given, ideally on their emergency response wallet card
  • Stay in touch via the “cool line,” website, or other telecommunications vehicle, or go to predetermined location for printed materials in case of a community power outage

Facing a Disaster Head On

What if the disaster you prepared for—or, the more likely scenario, another type of disaster—rocks your world? Do different leadership competencies come into play during a crisis? Probably not, but you will face a situation colored with emotion, and how you deal with this is what separates effective and successful leaders from those who stumble.

Richard E. Boyatzis,2 co-author of Resonant Leadership and Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, identifies three competencies that are key in times of crisis:


  • Mindfulness
    • Emotional awareness
    • Empathy
    • A keen sense of one’s surroundings
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-control

People will be looking to you for leadership, so Dr. Boyatzis says you need both self-awareness and self-control to:


  • Think quickly.
  • Remain somewhat dispassionate, at least on the surface.
  • Instill hope through verbal and nonverbal means.

This is not the time for that “deer in the headlights” look.


Taking a Look at Yourself

We’ve created a simple self-assessment grid that combines the ideas of Wayne Brockbank and Richard Boyatzis, as well as definitions from other competency models. We encourage you to jot down the assessments of your strengths and then note what you might do to further improve your capabilities.


Are You Ready to Lead?


Behavioral attributes:
Those qualities that come from within and have an impact on your behavior


Skills, knowledge, and abilities that you learn

If there are areas in the self-assessment grid where you feel you need some professional development, check the Leadership readings in the Resources section starting on page 136.

Using the Power of Denial to Face the Crisis

Often, the human reaction to a crisis is “This cannot be happening. This is unreal!” People may be stunned by what they are seeing or experiencing. It’s as if the mind stops trying to comprehend the shock or horror of the event. In some cases, people run away, an instinct known as “fight or flight,” because we as humans are compelled to seek safety or refuge when faced with danger.

In other cases, we decide to tough it out, to fight back, to gain control of the situation as best we can. For example, when he witnessed the horror of September 11, 2001, occurring right across the street from his office, William Nickey, the Northeast Region Human Resources Director at Deloitte & Touche USA, says,

My first reaction to this event—in my heart—was that I had to get home to Long Island to be with my family. But then my mind took over, and I told myself I had a job to do. Looking back, I realize now that I was in shock for the first 48 hours, but I made it through, not only playing my role as HR Director but also becoming a Disaster Recovery Project leader. Deloitte and Touche began immediately to make contact with all of our people, and miraculously, we lost only one employee who had not made it out of the World Trade Center.

In a crisis, we are compelled to act out of fear, confronted by the immediate threat of the situation. Mory Framer, a pioneer in trauma counseling, says that this inner resource is actually denial and that through denial we can regain control over the situation. What irony! Those who are effective in leading in the face of a disaster are in denial too. But because they encounter the denial at this stage, rather than doing so earlier and consequently avoiding the planning phase, they are able to help their organizations as opposed to putting them at undue risk.

Dr. Framer says, “The human condition gives great impetus to action through the fight/flight syndrome. When we don’t or won’t flee, we fight (within ourselves) to regain control in order to help others. The trauma or disruption we are facing creates internal energy that can be used to regain self-control.”

A second insight from Dr. Framer is that employees, family members, friends, and colleagues may not react to or recover from a fearful situation as quickly as successful leaders do. It’s necessary to understand and allow for this dynamic in the human side of emergency planning. Managers must be careful not to assume that their employees are gaining control as quickly as they are. You’ll learn more about this in Part II, especially in Chapters 4 to 8.


Remaining Detached versus Getting Connected

Consider adding another ability to your behavioral toolkit, one that Stephen Schoonover, an expert in developing organizational competency models, refers to as containment. Containment enables you to:


  • Set boundaries for behaviors and actions by yourself and others.
  • Calm people by means of a soothing voice and other methods.
  • Establish control through the use of a firm voice.
  • Find ways to break the tension through emotional release, for example, by talking about the incident or finding a reason to laugh (dark humor) so people can begin healing. Jack Armstrong, a veteran fire chief and Incident Commander, says that dark humor is what helps keep people in balance in very trying times.

As a strong leader you need to be somewhat dispassionate. Yet you also have to be connected to those around you—empathetic and psychologically present without seeming detached. For example, practice the ability to hold at arm’s length—maintaining a sense of touch but with some psychological distance; otherwise you can get swallowed up in the emotion of the moment. You need to be the voice of calm and reason.

As Dr. Boyatzis says, “Great leaders are in tune with their employees—they are in synch with the people around them. They exude hope, i.e., provide a sense of something bigger in the future, a vision, and a sense that they can take action on that future.” He adds, “These leaders care about people and people know it; they have emotional self-awareness and are empathetic. And, they have mindfulness, i.e., a sense of being aware of the environment and what surrounds them in the moment.”3

That describes New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani running down the street to find a new command center on 9/11. As difficult as the situation was, he exuded a sense of self-control, giving those in Manhattan and the rest of the world hope that life would go on. He remained very much aware of what was happening to him and others, and he took the most direct and positive action that he could—moment by moment.


Facing the Leadership Challenge Head On

We hope we have inspired you to step up and begin the disaster planning process in your organization, focusing especially on the human component. It may take more than one attempt to break through, but the payoff can be extremely rewarding—especially when a disaster strikes. In spite of whatever crisis you may face, employees will be re-energized and will go back to work, and you’ll have a continuing, vibrant business.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to go it alone in the planning and preparation phase. In addition to working with colleagues, you can take advantage of the conferences, literature resources, and self-assessment instruments offered through the Society for Human Resource Management and other organizations. Check out the Resources section starting on page 133.


Action Steps

  1. Prepare for the leadership role by assessing yourself and putting a development plan together to improve or enhance your capabilities.
  2. Read Chapter 2 , on business continuity planning, to enhance your understanding of the process.
  3. Sit down and begin to jot down your thoughts on the organization of your core team and the business continuity plan.

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Endorsements



"This book should be part of the library of every HR professional and the steps it outlines should be put into action by every HR leader to prepare for the human side of any disaster affecting their business."

—Libby Sartain, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Yahoo! Inc., former Vice President of People, Southwest Airlines, and coauthor of HR from the Hear and Brand from the Inside


"Whether you're an HR professional in a large corporation, a nonprofit, or a small business, you should keep this book close at hand. Its practical advice and coaching tips are the road map for ensuring the psychological and physical well-being of people in the workplace that you'll need most when you least expect it."

—Lois P. Frankel, PhD, author of Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office and Nice Girls Don't Get Rich

"If you've got a disaster on your hands, you'll want to read this how-to guide. The real-life examples and planning principles are just what you'll need to help you chart the best path through the worst times."

—Brad Whitworth, Director, Enterprise Communications, California State Automobile Association

"Leading People Through Disasters offers a roadmap to the responsibilities that HR professionals can take and architect to help organizations and people cope with catastrophes. It provides a template for disaster planning that won't avoid the disaster, but will help mitigate the results. This book should not just be read; it should be applied."

—Dave Ulrich, coauthor of HR Value Proposition; Professor, University of Michigan; and Partner, The RBL Group

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