What is a Crisis Management Plan? (Overview, Definition, and Examples)

  • By: Adam Wire
  • March 7, 2023
Board Crisis Management Plan
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Board Crisis Management Plan

A crisis management plan outlines the key steps your business or organization will take in response to a major crisis. Learn how your board can prepare.

Complex, quick-moving threats to companies can occur at any moment. From severe weather disruptions to global pandemics or cyberattacks, crises have the potential to cause damage, whether that’s health and safety risks for employees or consumers, disruption of operations, reduced financial viability, or lasting reputational impact. If a crisis is not managed well, it can also affect business continuity.

Preparedness is key when it comes to protecting your organization, regardless of size and scale. To mitigate risk, organizations need to adopt and follow a crisis management plan. 

With intense scrutiny and the stakes high, the board of directors plays a specific role in crisis management, putting policies in place to ensure the company is prepared for any impending danger.

Read on to learn more about how to draft an effective crisis response plan that protects your organization.

What is a Crisis Management Plan?

A diligent crisis management plan (CMP) provides an in-depth guide to the various steps necessary for responding to crisis situations. A crisis management plan should prepare organizations for any kind of disaster or disruption that may occur, from incidents with the public image to technology snags.

Your CMP should provide detailed instructions for each team’s role in mitigating damage as quickly as possible while restoring normal business operations swiftly and securely, as well as delegate a specific crisis response team. Your roadmap could be likened to a checklist, so if something unexpected happens, everyone involved knows exactly how best to respond, no matter the severity or scale. 

Those who take action must determine potential risks ahead of time by analyzing what sort of crises could impact their business. This way, they’re fully prepared if trouble does strike.

Types of Crises

To prepare and persevere through potential crises, it proves essential to understand the type of crises that might occur, as well as have a sound plan for resolution. With adept management, your business can stay on track despite anything unexpected thrown its way. Below are the common types of crises organizations face:

  • Natural disasters: The unpredictable force of nature can have serious repercussions for businesses, even those with a well-thought out plan. With proper preparation, managers may find themselves better equipped when faced with natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes, allowing them to adapt their strategies on the spot. 
  • Biological hazards: Biohazards are a reality in the workplace, where exposure to diseases and other substances can put people’s health at risk. From common colds, viruses, insects or fungi to human or animal fluids, many professions face potential contamination due to their working environment.
  • Accidental human-caused events: Human-caused disasters, such as industrial accidents and accidental fires/explosions, can have drastic effects on an organization’s operations, and more importantly, everyone’s health and safety. These incidents are capable of leaving behind irreparable devastation to both lives and property.
  • Intentional human-caused events: Businesses face a variety of dangers, from intentional criminal activity like thefts and assaults to purposeful destruction through arson. Each situation is unique, but all require swift resolution for the safety of employees and preservation of organizational assets.
  • Technology issues: While technology can be a source of tremendous benefit, organizations need to stay vigilant against sudden and unforeseen technological failures that can lead to costly losses. From website crashes or cyberattacks leading to lost revenue and stolen data, to advancements in production technologies by competitors resulting in market share challenges, the threat for unanticipated issues arising from reliance on tech is real. 

Elements of an Effective Crisis Management Plan

To coordinate an effective crisis management plan, you must first know its key elements, which include:

Identify Crisis Management Team Members

Leadership is a vital element in handling crises. A group of internal or risk committee response teams should be assembled. They must consist of senior executive officers tasked with managing the organization’s response to a crisis. Include a designated contact person, plus an alternate in case they’re unreachable, so your organization can respond swiftly and decisively when crises strike. 

The board of directors must identify suitable people for the task. Possible team members might include:

  • Chair of a specific committee
  • General counsel or assistant
  • Senior management members
  • Head of public relations
  • One or more board members

The board or company might decide to adjust the crisis response team, depending on the type of crisis involved.

Document Crisis Criteria 

Establishing the criteria that defines a business crisis is an essential step in preparing for unforeseen events. Through careful analysis of past experiences and possible future scenarios, you can create clear standards to determine when you are facing grave situations that require decisive action.

Establish Monitoring Systems

Early detection is key to successful crisis management and a critical aspect of any business safety net. Monitoring systems provide you with the opportunity to stay ahead of potential issues, enabling you to not only be aware, but also make adjustments when necessary.

Test Plan Effectiveness

Without being tested, a crisis management plan remains just an idea. To be confident in its effectiveness, it must pass the rigors of realistic simulation, proving that even when faced with unexpected challenges due to potential crises, you are prepared for successful mitigation.

Crisis Resiliency Standards

The major crisis resiliency standards are British Standards Institute (BSI) 11200:2014 and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 22320:2018. Organizations of all sizes can benefit from the highly regarded BSI 11200:2014, which provides invaluable guidance for effectively managing crises. It offers clear instructions on how to plan and establish an effective crisis management system that ensures long-term success in any organization.

ISO 22320:2018 provides authoritative guidelines for incident management, emphasizing the importance of effective joint direction and cooperation between involved parties. It gives clear instructions on key elements, such as roles and responsibilities, as well as tasks to be performed and resources needed. These guidelines are tailored toward any organization, regardless of size or complexity. 

Crisis Management Plan Example

The University of Washington takes crisis management seriously. The school has protocols in place to maintain safety and operations during dangerous incidents on or near campus — and also regularly emails students with tips for staying safe.

Their crisis communication plan, geared toward preserving safety and security of community members, includes plans for crises, such as marches or protests, injuries or deaths of community members, and bad press relating to the school.

HubSpot rounded up eight more crisis management plan examples.

Achieve Board Alignment With OnBoard

In today’s ever-changing environment, maintaining a proactive stance with regard to crisis management and business continuity planning proves pivotal for business health and resilience. Taking the time to assess potential threats, while anticipating emerging ones, better prepares organizations to quickly respond when faced with an unexpected challenge. 

A company’s board of directors is the foundation on which a successful crisis management strategy is built. With their considerable knowledge, capabilities, and experience to guide decision-making, directors create an environment for streamlined processes that empower teams toward achieving meaningful governance and compliance solutions — crucial elements in any effective crisis management plan.

OnBoard software for committees is an invaluable tool to help businesses prepare for turbulent times. Its enterprise platform security helps ensure compliance and reduce technological risks. Crisis plans can be stored securely within the platform, accessible to anyone at any time. 

Overall, OnBoard gives boards and their teams technology that uncovers insights and simplifies meeting management, so they can anticipate challenges before they arise.

Looking to boost board performance? Check out our Board Effectiveness Survey to understand the top trends and drivers of increased board effectiveness. 

Ready to start using OnBoard? Got questions about our services, plans, pricing, or want to schedule a demo? Contact us today to request a free trial!

About The Author

Adam Wire
Adam Wire
Adam Wire is a Content Marketing Manager at OnBoard who joined the company in 2021. A Ball State University graduate, Adam worked in various content marketing roles at Angi, USA Football, and Adult & Child Health following a 12-year career in newspapers. His favorite part of the job is problem-solving and helping teammates achieve their goals. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. He’s an avid sports fan and foodie who also enjoys lawn and yard work and running.