How to develop internal contingency routines for unwanted events or crises
Unwanted events or crises usually comes unexpectedly. To ensure proper handling it is important to be well prepared. The company must in advance have thought carefully about the type of events that may occur. A contingency plan must be prepared that can handle the situation in a quick, correct and efficient manner.
As part of the emergency preparedness, many companies have created their own crisis teams where each member has clearly defined tasks and responsibilities, including for traceability and possibly withdrawal or recall of the company’s products.
The procedures to be used in case of a crisis must be documented through a contingency plan. The contingency plan may contain the following:
- Scope, goals and target group
- Company policy regarding product safety
- Definition of event and crisis
- Description of the crisis team with roles and responsibilities clearly defined for each member of the team
- Action sequence to be performed if an event / crisis occurs
- A list of important contacts – internal / external
- When a product withdrawal is to be put into effect
- When a recall is to be put into effect
- How to organize internal / external communication
- Documented experiences from past events and exercises
- Templates for internal and external communication
- Registration and evaluation of events
The contingency plan must be updated regularly and distributed to all involved individuals.
Based on the contingency plan, a crisis team must be appointed, which is directed from a central coordination point. The team must decide which measures are to be taken. It must be clearly stated who should be the decision maker. Nothing must be done without the formal approval by the crisis team.
The overall area of responsibility for the team is to organize, manage and lead:
- Handling each event / crisis
- Development, implementation and updating of internal instructions to be followed if an event / crisis occurs
- Continuous training of persons involved in product traceability in crisis management
- Regular exercises and evaluation of the measures in the plan
- Development of internal and external communication plans to be used as an aid in handling an event / crisis
The crisis management team is a permanent prepared group based on the company’s management team, supplemented with necessary expertise (legal, information, sales / marketing)
The team must be known at all levels of the company. The members of the team must be able to be contacted at any time, and when necessary, appropriate alternatives must be available to cover all roles.
For the communication to go fast, a list of persons with contact details (phone number, mobile number, e-mail address and mailing address) must be prepared in advance. This applies to the crisis team, potential deputies, external advisors, public authorities, contacts in industry organizations, customers and the media.
Internal contact list:
This includes internal decision makers, as well as people who have expertise and can provide support. The list must be complete, updated and accessible to all affected persons in the company. The persons in the contact list must be able to be contacted by phone, mobile phone and e-mail at any time and be prepared to be assembled as a team to handle a crisis.
External Contact List:
Each company has an external interface that can consist of suppliers, customers, logistics services providers and IT solutions, consumers, public authorities, etc. These form an external network with persons to be contacted if an event / crisis occurs.
The crisis team is responsible for ensuring that the external contact list is complete, updated and accessible to all key people.
If possible, it is recommended to print the phone number (usually the consumer contact number) on the product Consumer Unit (CU), so that a consumer can call and ask questions or inform the company about a product failure or complaint.
All persons who could be involved in product traceability and crisis management must be trained and kept up to date on changes in preparedness. The training includes:
- Enterprise procedures for traceability, IT solutions, how to access necessary data etc.
- Instructions for managing events / crises
- Crisis team, participants, responsibilities and tasks
- The role of the person being taught
- Who to contact
- Importance of coordinated actions and communication in the company
- What to do and what to avoid
- How to use the documentation
- How to use product tracking and registration systems
The training should include exercises for handling events / crises. These must be run regularly to improve the readiness and awareness of the crisis management team, key staff and external contacts.
Exercises are applicable in the following areas:
- Product traceability
- Crisis management
- Handling of products in quarantine
Such exercises should be:
- Regular and realistic
- Documented with a clear explanation of the context, the results, the deviation and the corrective actions
- Based on templates that reflect the internal technical and organizational instructions
- Performed with the closest parties in the value chain
Check list for emergency preparedness
The company should prepare a self-assessment check list to evaluate its own contingency routines in relation to what is considered best practice. ap:
|Check list for emergency preparedness|
|Requirements / actions||Score|
|Event / crisis management team is designated with clear description of roles and responsibilities|
|Internal guidelines for handling events / crises with clear withdrawal and recall procedures, event evaluation, etc. are fully documented|
|Contact lists are documented and distributed|
|Contact lists are made available to key trading partners|
|Each individual involved in handling events / crises and withdrawal / recall procedures understands the roles and scope of action|
|Training materials are developed|
|Involved persons are kept regularly updated|
|Regular exercises are held to test all contingency plans and how the crisis team works|
|Regular exercises with important clients and / or adjoining parties in the value chain are held|
An appropriate score can be based on the following example:
0: No action taken
1: Plans have been established, but work has not started
2: Implementation has started to a limited extent
3: Full implementation has started
4: The plans are fully implemented