Coping in a Crisis: What to do the First Hour

  • November 29, 2012
  • Fran Stephenson
  • 3 min read

How you respond in a crisis largely depends on what you do in the first hour after you become aware that something bad has happened in your organization.

The suggestions given here are to supplement the crisis communication plan you are already using and should help with work flow in the first hour.

Clear Your Desk

Figuratively and literally.  Get rid of anything that is not germane to this one problem.  You can pick up on the rest when things return to normal.

Be the Hunter and Gatherer

Before you can start to communicate FOR your organization, you need people to communicate TO you from within the organization. Have your phone list and alternate contacts list on your desk.  Work the list, gather the team and their collective knowledge.

Stay on Top of Customer Contact

Some companies go off the rails during a crisis because they miss the little things.  Get anyone who can help answer phones, watch for news coverage, monitor social channels, and otherwise see what’s happening on the “outside” and arm them with a run sheet to keep track of the calls.  At the end of this post, there’s a sample which you can download and adapt for your organization. While this sounds old school, the most routine crises involve power outages from weather incidents, so you may not have access to your monitoring service and desktop computer.

When I was in corporate communications, every person on the team had 10 of these blank forms in their Crisis folder. We also made sure that the receptionist and call center team had them too. When the crisis was unfolding, they pulled them out of their desk and were ready to go. They are also a powerful way to take the pulse in a crisis.

Use Time Codes

As you receive information from the field or your crisis team, write down the time you received it.  I remember a crisis where a directive from the fire department which was given at a specific time changed the outcome of our response significantly.  Writing these “on the board” can be helpful later on.

Use a Bridging Response

While you are simultaneously gathering information, checking your customer contact sheets, you can also start drafting a bridging response which will get you through the first hour.

Set the right tone during the first hour of your crisis.  It is a good investment.

Here is a template to create your own Crisis Communication Run Sheet. Feel free to adapt for your organization:
Step in Crisis Template