5 January 2015
Welcome back to all of those who have taken time off over the holiday season and are rejoining those of us who have had to, or like me have chosen to, work through, blogs John Bowen.
It has been a fraught couple of weeks for some with a series of disasters, some of which are ongoing. These things can happen on any day of the year, but when they happen at a time many are expecting to be celebrating they are more poignant.
Regardless of whether they are accidents, natural disasters or a myriad of other causes, they affect those who suffer as a result and also for those who have to sort these things out. The training and skills that go into preparing for and dealing with incidents has been ably demonstrated. In the case of a Virgin Airlines crew they had time to make decisions and deal calmly with a problem and their aviation colleagues on the ground worked with them to safely get back to terra firma. Elsewhere in the skies, another crew had seemingly no time and the forces of nature seem to have overtaken them with catastrophic results.
On the seas one commercial vessel was lost off our shores while another crew avoided a similar fate by taking the decision to run their vessel aground - and were fortunate in being close enough to shore to make that choice and to quickly execute their option. One crew lost, another crew saved.
Having time counts for a lot. I've mentioned before about an aircrew that crashed 21 seconds after encountering a problem on take-off and yet the data recorders showed that they had identified a probable cause and executed the textbook response in that time. Unfortunately, the symptoms they experienced misled them and they were lost along with everyone on board, but the speed of their decision-making and putting a response into play says a lot for their training.
Today I start another five weeks of working on risk management and that is at the heart of being able to plan your responses if things go wrong. Working out what your risks are, their probability of occurring, and what the impact might be enables you to focus on what you can do. From there you can plan and practise your drills so that if the problem does arise you can deal with it calmly and effectively.
We tend to think of crisis management in terms of the major disasters, but while the reality of it is that most crises are minor and mundane they still need to be dealt with, and if you have a plan and have practised it, then its impact of the crisis will be minimal. The planning and practice is time-consuming, often boring, and frequently inconvenient, but if you don't do it you will make your life a lot harder in the event that something goes wrong.
Not that many of us have the responsibilities of the crew on a ship or aircraft, but a lot of us do have working environments that are vulnerable to problems; loss of one of the services, for example. I can remember learning the hard way that if there was any sign of people digging up the road near one of my buildings, then it was useful to have a quick refresher on the relevant crisis plans in case our friend on the JCB did find something he was not expecting as he happily dug away.
The next three months, certainly in the UK, are when we get the worst of our weather. So far this year we have no signs of the rain and flooding that plagued many of us a year ago. But if you haven't had a look at your risk register and crisis plans lately, this might be a good time to be spending some time on them.
John Bowen is an FM consultant