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What is Critical Incident Management? How to Stay One Step Ahead

Most workplaces do as much as possible to avoid critical incidents but some events can’t be avoided. It’s the planning before a possible event and the handling of the aftermath that can make all the difference. Find out how your organisation can plan for the worst-case scenario.

What is a Critical Incident?

A critical incident is a sudden event that may be overwhelming and threatening. A workplace critical incident may impact the operation and reputation of the organisation. Examples of a critical incidents in the workplace include a death or severe injury of a member, a fire, a bomb threat, or an armed hold-up. People who witness a critical incident may suffer from distress and poor emotional well-being moving forward. This may last a few hours or many months.    

Planning for Critical Incidents

Most workplaces complete some form of planning for critical incidents. For example, staff are usually trained on fire drills, employers may also offer training to staff to provide first aid, and managers and staff members may be trained about what to do during or after an armed hold-up.

By planning for a critical incident, an employer prepares workers for a possible event and ensures the right actions during and after the event. Effective planning can have many positive outcomes from saving an injured person’s life to reducing the impact on the organisation’s reputation. 

How Organisations Can Prepare for Critical Incidents

There are specific ways for an organisation to be equipped and be able to deal with critical incidents. Some of these include:

  • Undertaking a threat assessment
  • Taking action to mitigate or reduce some risks
  • Identifying actions that need to be taken and naming who will be responsible
  • Having internal and external communications templates
  • Updating emergency contact lists
  • Providing training to staff

Benefits of a Critical Incident Management

Time spent planning for a critical incident can pay dividends in how the incident impacts workers. With a plan in place, staff can get support within hours of the incident. When there is no plan, the consequences may last longer, impact more people, and be more severe.   

Employee Education

No one likes to think of the worst possible incidents occurring in their workplace. But educating employees on the possibilities can help if a major incident occurs. 
Providing workers with training such as psychological first aid ensures they can assist colleagues when an incident occurs. This training allows them to help colleagues and customers deal with the rising physical and emotional reactions after witnessing an event.  

Incident preparation can also educate employees in assessing the workplace for potential critical incidents. This can help employees identify and mitigate these potential incidents and threats. 

Even if training is never tested in a real-time incident, it can help staff in other aspects of their role including communication skills, planning, and a greater understanding of mental health.  

Employer Education & Preparedness

During the planning process, the organisation will undertake a comprehensive assessment to be aware of the potential threats. Actions may be taken to mitigate some of these risks such as improving building security and ensuring first aid kits are easily accessible. Being prepared means an organisation can negotiate and enter into agreements with third parties like psychologists and a public relations consultancy firm, to use their services if needed. 

Documents can be prepared in advance, such as outlining staff roles and responsibilities during a critical incident and updating emergency contact details. Preparing this paperwork in advance means it can be completed soon after an incident and the right people can be easily contacted.

Employee Understanding

When employees are educated about possible incidents, they have a greater understanding of what may occur during a critical incident. While most incidents come unexpectedly, stress management of the physical and emotional reactions can reduce their impact on witnesses. 

Responding Quickly to an Incident

One of the biggest benefits of planning for a major incident is that the organisation can respond quickly. Employees are more likely to make better decisions during and immediately after an incident when they have been trained. Professional psychologists may have already been engaged and have an understanding of the organisation and its employees.  

While being physically prepared for a critical incident is extremely important, part of this preparation is to consider the psychological effects that critical incidents can have on employees. Altius Group's critical incident response intervention works to provide support for distressed employees following a workplace accident or death. Contact us online or call 1800 258 487 for more information.

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