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Incident Response Planning 101

| February 1, 2023 | By

Every venue operator and facility manager hopes their property is as safe as possible. Although preventative measures should be established, measured, and adjusted, inevitably, incidents will occur. This reality might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be with the right incident response plan in place.

An incident response plan addresses incidents and emergencies as efficiently as possible through a series of preestablished procedures, tools, roles, and responsibilities. 

In this article, we'll examine how an incident response plan benefits you and your guests, and we’ll break down the elements of an effective plan so you have clear steps for implementing or improving one at your venue.

Learn how to build your incident management infrastructure

What Is an Incident Response Plan?

An incident response plan is defined by a set of procedures and tools that your security team uses to identify and address incidents. The goals are to minimize the negative impact of incidents on operations, ensure the safety of guests, and resolve incidents as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The elements of an effective incident response plan can be organized into three categories: 

Procedures

The procedures of an incident response plan include both preventative and event-based procedures:

  • Preventative procedures are put in place to help ensure a dangerous incident doesn’t occur, such as utilizing metal detectors and screening devices to stop weapons from entering the venue. 
  • Event-based procedures include the list of action items that staff members execute in order to safely and effectively resolve an incident. 

Staff Roles and Responsibilities 

When it comes to incident management, your team is ultimately going to determine the success or failure of the plan. You need staff:

  • On the back end, such as those who strategize the creation of a plan.
  • On the line, such as those who are coordinating communication with guests and local law enforcement, and those managing delegation.
  • On the scene, such as security personnel placed strategically to guide guests to an exit or mitigate the incident by directly addressing the instigator. 

Communication

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can’t resolve the issues you’re unaware of.” Unfortunately, your staff doesn’t typically become aware of an incident first—your guests do. 

That’s precisely why, as soon as guests notice an incident, they should be empowered to  report the incident to staff quickly and effectively. This is often accomplished through communication software with instant messaging capability and an integrated incident management system.

The Benefits of Having an Incident Response Plan

An effective incident response plan reduces venue costs, mitigates the effects of high-consequence events, reduces liability, and can even save lives. Let’s dig deeper into the benefits of a comprehensive incident response plan for your facility and for your guests.

The Positive Impacts on Your Guests

The safety of your guests is your No. 1 priority. An effective plan:

  • Reduces the risk of injuries and fatalities: If a worst-case scenario occurs in your venue, a fast response can address injuries and reduce the risk of fatalities. 
  • Improves customer trust and satisfaction: A well-managed response to an unfortunate experience shows that you care, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

The Positive Impacts on Your Operations

When incidents are responded to quickly, they impact your operations through:

  • Reduced facility downtime: Responding quickly and effectively to incidents minimizes the amount of time you’re required to put the rest of your operations on hold. 
  • Reduced costs: Over time, the fewer incidents that occur and the faster your response, the more time, money, and resources you end up saving. 

How to Create an Incident Response Plan

It’s not enough to understand the benefits of an incident response plan. You must develop a tailored plan that is able to be executed.

1. Perform a Risk Assessment

A risk assessment forms the basis of an effective incident response plan. Your risk assessment should include a catalog of probable, high-consequence situations that can’t be mitigated before a response will be needed. Your organization will need a plan for these events. You also need to identify any equipment or protocol currently in place, along with their past and potential future effectiveness.

2. Establish Incident Response Team Roles and Responsibilities 

Your incident response plan is only as good as those who execute it. Make sure your staff members know exactly what they need to do in the event of an incident, especially during more dangerous events such as bomb threats or active shooters

With centralized software, you can include detailed information about roles and responsibilities, as well as on-scene prompts that minimize the need for staff to memorize information capture protocols. This allows them to be present and responsive rather than distracted.

3. Develop Incident Reporting Procedures

During particularly stressful times, the brain goes into a fight or flight response. In the event that your staff or guests are experiencing a dangerous or potentially dangerous incident, they need a way to quickly and easily report critical incident details to the right people. 

Providing multiple communication methods enables people to choose the most effective and efficient method in a given situation. Note, that a phone call won’t always do, and assistance isn’t always close by. Consider an active shooter situation where silence may be key to survival. How would someone in such a situation be best empowered to make a report without risking life? In these situations the ability to send a text-based instant message such as through SMS, can be a life saver. Yet, even SMS won’t always do. For some people in some regions, an instant messaging app such as WhatsApp is used by far more people and enables multimedia reporting.

In other situations, such as reporting lost or found property, a simple asynchronous web-form is typically best.

4. Define Incident Recovery Procedures

Your recovery procedures include a few elements. First, communicate with guests after the incident has been resolved. Second, utilize the data collected through your software to investigate response times, communication, and other relevant information to create efficiencies wherever possible. 

5. Designate Incident Management Tools

A full record of communications, dispatches, and incident status updates should always be kept. Not only does this data help drive continuous improvement initiatives, in the case of a liability lawsuit, you have documentation to highlight your processes and responses. 

In all but only the simplest situations, the required level of documentation is virtually impossible without the use of incident management software. Spreadsheets simply won’t do. They’re far too error prone, inefficient, and cumbersome. However, not just any software will get the job done. Be sure to use a vetted vendor with a proven track record serving your industry or a similar one. 

Reduce Liability with 24/7 Software 

Incident response planning is dependent on the right tools. By implementing a robust Incident Management System software, you benefit from:

  • Instant communication through multiple communication channels
  • Color-coding to help organize incidents based on priority
  • Multimedia uploads for varied communication through messaging
  • Immediate dispatch of the proper personnel 
  • Extensive documentation to track all incoming and outgoing information 

Want to learn more about the power software analytics can bring to your operations? Check out our e-book, How to Build Your Incident Management Infrastructure for Useful Analytics.

Learn how to build your incident management infrastructure

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