Crisis Information Capture Reports

The inability to effectively gather and share information is a frequent management failure during many crisis events both within the incident response group actually managing the emergency at the point of crisis and in terms of those other elements within the company seeking to support and respond to the problem. Information flow is often slow, inaccurate, and poorly presented, reducing the ability of an organization to effectively understand and manage a crisis. The flow of information both within the project group and to corporate officers and external agencies is vital for the success of incident management as well as the overall crisis response. Information flow among teammates, vendors, and external groups is also important; multiple plugin points should share relevant information for a unified management approach to aid in making the right decisions and allocating the right resources.
The company and contracted or supporting groups should establish a simple and effective reporting system, with defined reports and communication channels to ensure that information gets to the right people at the right time and is factual and usable. A variety of reports may be required, depending on the nature and scope of the emergency situation facing the company, as well as dynamics within the company organization, contracted groups, and supporting agencies. At times a single crisis event may require a series of reports to meet different macro and microlevel crisis natures in order to be effective; at times an amalgamated report that includes various constituent elements of an incident management plan (IMP) may need to be created during an emergency to reflect unique emergency situations, reducing management repetition and making reporting more efficient and effective.
Reports should be designed to support, not hinder or burden, incident response and crisis management teams that will be concurrently dealing with the physical effects of a crisis, while also communicating critical information to supporting groups. They should be simple, focused, and succinct. For ease, information can be broken into two basic categories: a report and a return. The distinction between a report and a return is subjective. However, fundamentally, a report can be considered a medium by which managers provide information, assessments, and recommendations, whereas a return purely provides requested statistics or hard data. While both project teams and teammates or vendors might initially perceive the establishment of a range of documents to meet report and return requirements to be an additional administrative burden, in retrospect most managers during and following a crisis find that a defined reporting structure with predefined templates makes information management easier over the course of the crisis, as well as after the incident when historical data is required for post incident reviews or investigations. In addition, sensible report structuring systems can also remove repetitive and duplicative efforts within the organization overall, permitting managers to focus more time and resources on dealing with the actual crisis itself. For some events, information from both categories will be included within one document.
A sound reporting structure with sensible and pragmatic information requirements will support all management levels and groups in establishing a more efficient organizational process for mature and effective crisis management responses. Consistent templates and materials flowing through company, partner, or vendor structures enable more effective decision making, and provide a monitoring mechanism to track and manage accountability and performance within incident and crisis management teams. Reporting chains should also have nodal points, where several sets of information flow into an incident or crisis manager, who generates a consolidated report and forwards that report to a series of other recipients. This process reduces email or telephone traffic and best coordinates information management, as illustrated in Exhibit 1. A mature company Business Continuity Plan (and IMP) will have a raft of standardized reports and returns that the company can modify to suit its own needs, reducing the burden on the company when establishing new reporting structures or templates for additional business activities.

Exhibit 1: Information Flow Management
To avoid reports and returns becoming burdensome during periods of hightempo operations or crisis events, they should be focused and cleanly structured. The use of annexes for sections might also allow management to focus only on the areas of interest to them rather than having to sift through volumes of data to get to their area of interest. This level of detail is typically not required during the use of the IMP, but will be needed at times for the crisis management (sustained) phase, or for post incident reviews. The use of webhosted reporting can support regular updates and ensure that information can be more effectively shared between multiple users and stakeholders – rather than through typical email traffic. Reports and returns typically reflect generic needs, risk issues, operational activities, incident management and crisis responses, the delivery of services, manpower levels, and significant events. For the IMP, reports and returns are focused on delivering critical operational, risk management, and timesensitive information. Exhibit 2 illustrates some principles that should be considered when developing crisis information capture report templates for a company or specific business group:
  • Focused.: Information capture reports should be focused on particular crisis scenarios and provide information essential for various layers of management to make effective decisions.

    Exhibit 2: Crisis Information Capture Report Principles
  • Channeled.: Reporting of crisis information should be channeled along efficient paths of communication, with defined nodal points and consolidation points. Restrictions should apply along channels where necessary.
  • Rehearsed.: In order to be effective, training and rehearsals should be conducted on the use of template reports and the methods by which to quickly gather information.
  • Resourced.: Resourcing, like all other aspects of the Business Continuity Management (BCM) Plan, will define whether managers can operate and communicate effectively.
  • Integrated.: Reporting of information should integrate all information sources, as well as ensure that all stakeholders, both within and external to the company, are included.
  • Simple and Clear.: Report templates should be simple and clear, reflecting the breadth of experience, knowledge, and capabilities of the user audience.
  • Pragmatic.: Reports should be pragmatic tools, engineered to achieve results through the timely and accurate dissemination of information. They should help, not hinder the user.
  • Intuitive.: It should be assumed that many of the user audience will not have received training on the use of the reports, so the reports should be as intuitive as possible to enable ease of use.
  • Flexible.: Every crisis situation will be different, and reports should provide guidelines and a logical system for gathering information, but should be not constraining or restrictive.
IMP reports and returns should be standardized where possible and appropriate, as this ensures that information is presented in the same manner, contains the same forms of content, and meets the same objectives across multiple divisions, projects or operating regions. However, while consistency in structure and content is important, companies should seek to have reports reflect the operating environment and risk natures a project may be facing. The documents created and implemented should seek to support, not hinder, business activities; thus, only those matching a riskspecific need should be used. They should act to prompt considerations specific to an incident or emergency type in the same fashion as the response guidelines, walking users through a logical sequence in order to ensure that the right information is collected and shared among the incident and crisis response groups.


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