What to Do During a Crisis

During the crisis, your focus is to deal with the situation, gather accurate information and communicate quickly.

  • Bring the situation under control – Before you do anything else, ensure the safety and well being of everyone involved. Always protect people first and property second. Call emergency professionals if they are needed.
  • Analyze the situation and gather information – Once the necessary safety and security precautions have been taken, get the facts from informed sources before responding to inquiries. Consider legal, ethical and organizational ramifications.
  • Don’t blow the issue out of proportion or allow others to do so. If the media contact you before you have had a chance to assess the situation and decide on a response, let them know when you expect to have more information – and honor your own deadline. Nothing is more likely to make the situation worse than an irritated reporter who has been left dangling with no information. You will need to find answers to some basic questions including: what happened? when did it happen? where did it happen? how many people are involved? where are those people now? how dangerous is the situation? what happens next?
  • Keep internal public informed – In addition to working with the media, a good crisis communication plan allows for communication with members of the organization. If the situation warrants, call a staff and/or volunteer meeting and provide appropriate information on the circumstances and the organization’s position. Or, your plan may call for the use of a fax or telephone tree system. The best policy, if possible, is to release information to people in the organization before, or at least at the same time, it is released to news media.
  • Communicate with the media – In general, it is good policy to release information about the situation as quickly as possible. Comments should be of a general nature until all the facts are in, but then it is far better to get the full story out as soon as possible. Return calls first to radio and television stations, then to newspapers. Reporters provide few surprises in a crisis situation.