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A crises management team (CMT) provides a controlled response to calamities affecting an organization and its employees or a community. Whether the crisis involves economic distress, physical violence or a natural disaster, this team is prepared to keep critical functions operational. The crisis management team organizes resources, keeps key communications flowing, coordinates action and makes decisions to assist the organization or the community.
Crisis Management Command Structure
Crisis situations demand a clear command structure. Even organizations that function effectively without centralized control under normal conditions must rapidly transition into a centralized structure in times of crisis. Designating a well-organized chain-of-command ensures a coherent and efficient use of potentially limited resources. Core leadership of the CMT should reflect the organization's top leadership -- in the business world, this means the first layer of command in crisis is typically the CEO.
Business CMT Membership
Critical core team members in business should represent key roles of the executive staff, including a leader or CEO with a direct line to the board of directors. A finance member protects company funds, keeps money flowing where needed, and keeps track of extraordinary expenses directly related to the crisis for insurance records. Investor relations and public relations members monitor market shifts and public perceptions, and recommend actions to restore or keep public trust. General counsel team members communicate with regulatory agencies and outside counselors to protect the company from further damage resulting from fines, legal claims and any potential of criminal charges. Additional core members may represent security, medical teams, environmental protection or other critical support functions. Every member should have a back-up to take charge if the primary member is unreachable when the crisis hits or at any time while the crisis is ongoing.
Non-Profit CMT Membership
For non-profit and community organizations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a core team of five to seven people with key roles, including a decision maker, a spokesperson and a communications manager. The decision maker provides direction to enable core or essential operations to resume at the minimum level after a major disruption, and then to keep things going until the crisis ends. The spokesperson represents the organization to the media and the general public in order to protect the organization's image and maintain public trust. The communications manager keeps an updated list of roles, responsibilities and contact numbers for staff members, volunteers and other key persons, and makes sure everyone has the information needed to get or keep operations running.
Crisis Management in Schools
The U.S. Department of Education has established a special program for addressing significant incidents affecting schools. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) recommends a centralized command structure and a multi-team approach. A logistics team addresses transportation, food, shelter and other critical resources. A planning team identifies resource needs, assigns designated roles to specific individuals, records the effectiveness of responses to incidents and practice drills and updates crises response plans as needed. A finance and administration team records staff hours and expenses, and prepares documentation for insurance claims. An operations team addresses the physical health and well being of students, school staff and community members, overseeing security, medical needs and, if needed, search and rescue.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.