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Pandemic Response Planning

Organization: Large International Non-Governmental Financial Institution

Challenge: Rapidly assess the institution’s preparedness for a communicable disease then develop a plan for responding in a coordinated fashion.

Solution: We engaged experts across the organization, from travel, real estate and finance to medical, security, and operations, as well as experts from the United Nations and the World Health Organization to establish a broad-based framework for organizational response to a pandemic. The framework included policies and procedures for distribution of anti-retroviral medications, work-from-home practices, and deployment of technology to enable remote working by essential staff.  In addition, we created a template plan for use by essential business units.

Results: While the organization largely dodged the bullet with regard to Avian Influenza, it was struck by the Swine Flu a few years later and responded well. The planning framework became the default framework for future plans.

Field Office Emergency/Business Continuity Preparedness & Training


Organization: International Non-Governmental Women's Rights Organization


Challenge: Develop an easy-to-use guide that could be used in any of the organization’s 100-plus offices situated around the globe, then train staff (who know nothing about emergency response or business continuity) to use it.


Solution: Drawing from a decade of experience developing plans for similar organizations in similarly austere environments, we drafted a booklet that included six elements: the Plan, Detailed Resources and Contact Information, Checklists, Forms, Annexes, and Policy & Guidance. Each part had a distinct purpose and together they outlined the Field Office’s emergency preparedness and business continuity program. The greater value than the plan, however was a three-day training program that rapidly brought field office managers and their critical staff up to speed on the plan contents and how they might use it in times of crisis. The three day customized training program included some theory on why we plan and respond the way we do. The majority of the training, however, was centered on practical exercises that helped to prepare field office staff for the risks they would likely face.


Results: Within six months of the first training program being delivered, three field offices experienced emergencies requiring the activation of their plans (an earthquake in Nepal, Ebola in West Africa, and a bombing in Istanbul). In each case, the office’s plan was up to date, and while the response was difficult, all three offices reported having the capacity and the tools to handle them.

Crisis Leadership Training


Organization: International Non-Governmental Financial Institution

Challenge: Develop and present crisis leadership training to a group of people who are unfamiliar with responding to emergencies, but who believe they do not need the training.

Solution: We developed a two-phased training program that was light on theory and heavy on hands-on exercising. The two 1.5 hour training sessions were for Field Office Managers (those who were new to the positions and those who were taking on new assignments). Both training sessions were mandatory. The first occurred prior to the manager taking his or her post and the second occurred approximately six months into their two year tours. We crafted multiple exercise scenarios and challenged them to make difficult decisions with little information in a very short time frame. Many made missteps in the initial scenario, but by the end the participants felt much more comfortable and successfully navigated difficult scenarios.

Result: In an 18 month period, in 118 incidents that disrupted or had the potential to disrupt business in this organization’s Africa operations, all Field Office Managers who had participated in the training performed better than peers who faced an incident but had not received the training, according to the organization’s global security team.

Business Continuity Exercise

Organization: International Non-Governmental Financial Institution

Challenge: Simultaneously test existing business continuity plans (BCP) for critical departments and conduct an exercise that would help departments without finalized BCPs move across the finish line.

Solution: Go simple. We developed a fire scenario that was devastating, but not overwhelming. We reviewed each department’s BCP, then went back to the basics to drill the key elements: what would happen if they lost a facility, human resources, or critical technology?

Results: The teams came away from the exercise with practical ideas to strengthen their plans; so did the business continuity program office.

Crisis Communications Planning

Organization: Large International Non-Governmental Financial Institution


Challenge: Prepare a crisis communications plan for the organization based on an all-hazards-approach

Solution: We developed a strong crisis communications framework that linked up with the organization’s Incident Command structure. It included checklists and procedures for engaging internally and externally. We also linked up with subject matter experts within the organization to understand the risks facing the organization’s reputation, then crafted messaging templates for the top risks.

Results: Prior to the creation of the crisis communications plan, the organization took more than 30 minutes (on average) to release its first communication following an incident. Following the plans implementation, the organization regularly released its first message within five minutes of an incident.

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