The COVID-19 pandemic was a learning moment for organizations regardless of their industry nation-wide. While learning and implementing ways to navigate a crisis can be intimidating for leaders of healthcare organizations, the pandemic taught us all that no matter how low the likelihood of an emergency event happening is, that we must always have a plan, and stay prepared at all times.
National Safety Month was created in 1996 by the National Safety Council to increase awareness of leading health and safety risks with the goal of decreasing the number of unintentional deaths and injuries in the U.S. In observance of National Safety Month, Wellhart urges organizations to be proactive about learning about the stages of a crisis, and what steps to take to not only navigate, but mitigate the associated risks.
The stages of a crisis are: Pre-Crisis, Crisis, Response and Post-Crisis. These 3 stages are associated with the 4 phases of crisis management, or the process by which an organization or business deals with a sudden emergency situation. These 4 phases are: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, and organizations should always be in at least one phase of crisis management.
It’s evident that in order to navigate a crisis, organizations must expect the unexpected. For healthcare organizations who do not know where to start with planning for a sudden emergency, Wellhart explains what the 4 stages of a crisis are with their corresponding crisis management phase, and examples.
Pre-Crisis, Mitigation, and Preparedness
The pre-crisis stage, also known as the prodromal stage of a crisis, is the warning stage before a crisis happens, and is also when you may not have even recognized that a crisis could be coming. This is the time when your organization’s leadership should assess what impact a possible crisis could have on your providers, patients, operations, and overall bottom-line. The pre-crisis stage is correlated with both the mitigation and preparedness phases of crisis management, as both phases should occur before a disaster takes place.
Mitigation is the phase that focuses on taking steps in the prevention of an emergency event by taking actions to avoid an incident before it can happen, and reduce the potential damage that may be caused by an incident if an unavoidable crisis does occur.
Examples of mitigation activities include planning and zoning, or buying certain insurances such as flood and disaster insurance for your facility.
Preparedness is the phase that centers on reducing the impact of a disaster by making plans and preparations to increase an organization’s ability to respond to a crisis when it happens.
Examples of preparedness activities include implementing staff training and emergency drills, or forming an evacuation plan from your facility complete with routes.
Crisis and Response
The crisis phase, also known as the acute stage, is when the crisis itself takes place. Damage is unavoidable in this stage, and ignoring the situation no longer remains an option. This stage is the shortest of the 4 stages of a crisis, and the goal is to control what little you can so your organization can move to the next phase of crisis management.
The response phase, also called the chronic phase, is when your preparedness plan that you made before the crisis took place is put into action. The length of this stage depends on the type of crisis at hand; for some situations, such as a snow storm, it could last days, and for others, such as a public health emergency, this phase could last much longer.
Both the crisis and response stages of a crisis are correlated with the response phase of crisis management.
Response activities take place during, and immediately after a disaster occurs. They center around taking steps to prevent any further property damage to your facility and saving lives. During this phase, business operations do not function normally, and the duration of the response phase depends directly on your organization’s level of preparedness.
Examples of response activities include conducting search and rescue missions, and taking actions to protect yourself, your facility, and your staff.
Post-Crisis and Recovery
The post-crisis stage, also known as the crisis resolution stage, happens after a disaster occurs, and is when your organization assesses the damage done, and now requires attention as your organization attempts to get back to business as usual. It is the stage that is correlated with the recovery phase of crisis management.
Recovery is the phase when actions are taken after an emergency or disaster happens in order to return to normal conditions, or to create an even safer situation than before following the emergency event, and the end of the crisis is declared. During the recovery phase, the crisis is no longer the focal point of your organization’s attention, and restoration activities occur during your organization’s normal business and operations. The goal is to return to an environment where the crisis seemingly never happened.
Examples of recovery activities include restoring power, and conducting debris clearance.
While crisis management itself only contains 4 distinct phases, it is not a simple “one and done” solution to navigating emergencies; in fact, effective crisis management is a cyclical process with a comprehensive crisis communications plan. Your organization should always be taking steps to improve its mitigation actions and preparedness plans, whether or not a crisis occurs in the first place. In the case that a crisis does occur, no matter how well your organization handles the situation, the mitigation and preparedness phases should always be revisited and built upon, as there is always room for improvement.
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