Plan Practice Process
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
No other entity faces crisis quite as often as that of an airport. Airports face a number of threats everyday from terrorist attacks, inclement weather, and even health risk. This is why it is imperative to not only have a Crisis Management Plan, but to also practice executing different elements of the plan. With an airport it's not will a crisis happen it’s when.
During a crisis there is an abundance of information to be shared, but some information is more important than the others. Airports must choose what information is pertinent and what isn't. Airports' deal with major hindrance most businesses don't face everyday. While they can give out information on Twitter what language do they use? When an international airport has a hurricane that affects a flight from Orlando to France, do you make the announcement in French or English? Airports are tasked with distributing information in multiple languages in real time, it's not fair for an airport to tell its patrons you didn't get necessary information, because this is America and you don't speak English sorry. There must be multiple way to dispense information and it has to be easily interpreted for everyone.
Airports must create plans that think of every possible detail there are mothers, children, sick, and elderly for our business trips and so forth. Many companies can get away with a couple key communicators in a crisis, but an airport needs multiple and they must all be flowing and working on the same page. Imagine the turmoil if each communicator was in charge of their specific part without having to coordinate with anyone else, while they will take care of their responsibilities they can do so in a way that's harmful to everyone else.
It is critical for airports to plan, practice, and process. Let's break that all the way down. Planning is key to getting everyone on the same page and for your communicators to start visualizing the crisis. You must mentally put yourself into a situation for success in real life. Athletes have visualization coaches to help them improve at their sport. Your communicators need to do the same thing, they must visualize themselves in the given crisis allowing for them to think it all the way through. If you know what's coming you can better think and react.
Practice practice practice. The more you run through drills the better your team will become in handling crisis. Practicing this situation helps to make it comfortable and improves thinking and reaction times. You want to drill a crisis in your communicators head so much that it becomes muscle memory which could be the difference between life and death in a time of turmoil. Every second counts so timing yourself in practice is absolutely necessary.
Process. Practice makes perfect right? Wrong Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. Once you've planned and practiced you must evaluate the process to make sure you are being as efficient as possible. If you taught your communicators how to handle a problem incorrectly it will come to light during the crisis (if you are running your practice right it should come to light then). It is imperative for management to constantly re-evaluate the planning and practicing portion to keep it up to date with the necessary scenarios. When ever new elements are added the process has to be updated or completely changed all together based on the severity of the new element. During snowstorms and inclement weather airlines are not held liable for hotel stays. This leads to angry passengers who are stranded at the given airport. How do you mitigate that emotion so it doesn't lead to viral videos of how poor their conditions are. You want to control your story so you must figure out a way to make people as comfortable as the crisis can afford it to be. Everyone know airports cant control weather, but the strongly expect for you to have a perfected plan for when weather conditions become severe.
Without sitting down to plan practice and process you can never get the answers to these questions. You won't even know what you should be questioning because you haven't planned for anything let alone the layers of a crisis. Every airport should have an on staff Crisis Manager or at least on call. That person should be tasked with thinking of all possible scenarios and meeting with leaders about the best way to handle each crisis, teaching quarterly training courses or lectures. Being prepared for crisis has to be a mindset that is a part of an airports culture or any business for that matter.