Managing Help During IncidentsThe main story dominating the news in the UK this week is the abduction of April Jones, a 5 year old girl while out playing in the village of Machynlleth in Wales. Despite a huge effort by the Police and local volunteers they have still not found her. This is one of a parent’s worst nightmares, to have your child abducted by a stranger. A heartening part of this story has been the response of the local community, who have volunteered in large numbers to go out and help in the search for April and have scoured a 30 mile area around the town. We all hope and pray that she is found alive.
In common with the April Jones abduction, after an incident there is often great sympathy for the people or an organisation who have been involved in an incident and the desire from people to help in whatever way they can. This could be from people within the local area as well as people from other parts of the organisation who are unaffected by the incident. In large disasters there is often a desire to send items which the survivors might need or a desire to set up a fund to help the victims. I remember hearing a case study on Hurricane Katrina and one of the problems the government faced was donations of aid. They arrived in mass and often unannounced and it a lot of cases the donations were not needed. The authorities didn't want to be ungrateful so as a result resources had to be allocated in regard's to dealing with the aid.
If we recognise that it is likely to be sympathy and offers of support for our organisation after an incident; how as business continuity people should we approach this and build it into our plans.
- First of all, recognise that there will be people wanting to help either from the local community or from throughout the organisation. I think a manager should be designated to deal with this and incident teams should think through useful tasks that volunteers can do. If you do not use volunteers in this instance they may be much more reluctant to help next time.
- Often after an incident staff are happy to do “what it takes” to get the organisation up and running and will work extra hours and take on extra responsibilities. This goodwill has to be managed very carefully. Messing people about, poor decision making, changes in what you are asking them go do and not recognising their contribution will very quickly deplete this reservoir of good will.
- Do not forget during and at the end of the incident to say thank you to all the people who have worked to recover the organisation. “Royal visits” by senior managers to go and talk to and personally thank staff are always very much appreciated. Personal letters or recognition in organisation magazines should also be carried out at the end of the incident.
- Do note that ex gratia payments to staff who were involved in the response may be appropriated but they are fraught with danger. Who gets them, the level at which they are given, is the amount before or after tax, and different people usually have worked to different intensities but do they still get the same payment. I have experienced this in a company I used to work for and they caused more conflict than resolution.
Harness the goodwill after an incident but it needs to be managed as it is very easily lost!