Organizational Response to Critical Incident

Organizational Response to Critical Incident Management

All organizations are potentially vulnerable to events beyond their control, which could produce resulting conditions serious enough to severely impact both the organization and its employees. In many instances these critical incidents are catastrophic events that occur with little or no warning, thus allowing those people affected little or no opportunity to consider or plan for the incident. Critical incidents may include natural disasters, acts of terrorism, armed robberies, assaults, sudden death or a severe workplace accident. Also included can be certain more predictable events such as a mass layoff, location closure, merger, etc.

An organization’s ability to function after trauma or tragedy is due to the tangible connections and networks that are formed between the people who work there. It is critical that employers acknowledge the importance of these interpersonal bonds to the overall well-being of the entire organization.

There can be a high price to pay in terms of staff productivity and morale if traumatic events – and how to deal with them from the employees’ perspective – are not addressed. To be productive and efficient, workplaces require teamwork, communication and a high level of focus. To prevent disruption by critical incident reactions, organizations should have in place an effective response plan for dealing with critical incidents when and if they do occur. The essential components of such a plan include the following:

  • Development of a Critical Incident Response Team
  • This team may have a representative from Security, Safety, Risk Management, Legal Counsel, Human Resources, Health Office, Communications, Quality Improvement, Finance, Clergy and a Mental Health Professional (HelpPeople counselor).
  • Preparation of a Critical Incident Response ManualPrepare a policy and procedural manual that details the roles of organization members in responding to a crisis. Major concerns for the Crisis Team should include:
    • Employee safety and emergency operating procedures
    • Emergency medical procedures
    • Emergency personnel policies and procedures
    • Emergency financial procedures
    • Emergency telecommunications systems
    • Supplies and equipment
    • Liaisons with outside agencies
    • Internal communications, media relations, public relations
  • Training for supervisors and employees
  • Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) ServicesCritical Incident Stress Management is designed to mitigate and, if possible, prevent the development of potentially disabling post traumatic stress symptoms and other stress-related disorders.
  • A CISM debriefing is appropriate for employees who witnessed or experienced a traumatic or violent incident in the workplace, and is most beneficial when provided within 24 – 72 hours post event. Participation is voluntary. HelpPeople counselors are trained to consult on and facilitate this service.
  • Crisis/Transition MeetingThese meetings are used when an organization is going through downsizing, mergers, relocations, buying/selling, other major changes, or significant damage to the workplace. They are usually informational and supportive, with a sharing of reactions by employees, and a discussion of coping skills and resources facilitated by the EAP counselor.
  • Bereavement SessionThese meetings are used when a death (usually an employee) has occurred outside of work (not witnessed). They are supportive and informational, with employees sharing reactions, and the EAP providing coping skills and resources for grief management. Counselor may also facilitate a discussion addressing helpful ideas for honoring the employee, attending the funeral, dealing with the work possessions and the family of the employee, and workload of co-workers.

It is impossible to escape the constant bombardment of bad news in today’s society. Workplace and domestic violence, crime and other catastrophes all add up to make trauma a daily strain in our lives. No organization can fully immunize itself against the effects of a potentially devastating incident, but through advance planning, preparation and ready access to intervention, an organization can provide both a positive support mechanism for employees and decrease the long-term effects of a critical incident on the organization. Careful preparation enables an organization to respond effectively to any critical incidents, thus helping to stabilize their employees faced with trauma.