People do love their checklists. I love mine too. But they should only really be used when the process and outcome is prescribed, predictable and repeatable.
Sadly, an aircraft accident is none of those. In fact, a major aircraft accident is probably one of the most dynamic situations a Crisis Management Team is ever likely to endure.
So. Let’s delve a little deeper into my belief that checklists don’t work for the airline Crisis Management Team during a crisis.
Your Airline Crisis Management Team has been alerted, activated and are now assembled in your Crisis Management Centre in response to what is believed to be a major aircraft accident.
All are anxious to find out what’s going on and establish their functionality
Then you get a phone call from the big boss
“We have a specialist in the building. He knows all about this stuff. I’m sending him straight down. Do whatever he says”!
And guess what. IT’S ME!
“Hi. I’m Paul. So, we’ve got a major aircraft accident with lots of casualties and a big fire”
“Ok. You need SOP #4 and checklist #2.
And we’ll fix whatever else happens along the way”
And I promptly hand out a set of airline crisis response checklists that I wrote 2 years ago for each function within your team
I think you’d expect a bit more from a professional. I certainly would!
What would YOU expect ME to do?
Maybe ask a few QUESTIONS before I create my plan?
Well that’s all I want your Crisis Management Team to do
ASK A FEW QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU THEY DO ANYTHING ELSE!
BUT YOU KNOW WHAT?
That last scenario is similar in many ways to what airlines often play out for real when their own Crisis Management Team assembles and assumes command of an actual incident
Hi I’m Paul. I will be assuming command of the incident but first, I have a few questions.
What do we know about the accident site?
Do we know how many have survived?
Is that likely to get worse?
How about families at the airport?
What do we know?
Do you think families are waiting now?
Do you think more will be arriving?
How bad could that situation get?
And the questions would continue until I get a clear picture of the incident in my mind’s eye.
It’s brainstorm time!
We would now consider the potential risk of each element to decide what we should fix first and what to fix last
Will this happen? – Will this hurt?
Let me have your full attention. We all need to focus on this until we work out what do.
I want us all to focus right now on the families at the airport and those that may also be on their way
To reduce the severity of the situation. Within 1 hour. All families and friends of passengers should ..
To prevent it worsening. Within 1 hour: Establish a means of directing any new arrivals to …………..
Within 2 hours; Establish a hotel facility …..
“We need a plan of the tactics and resources required to achieve those objectives”. “And we need that plan yesterday”!
“Have I missed anything? Any questions”?
“Do you all understand the objectives”?
Now that seemed a bit better.
So, let’s look back at what just happened
We conducted an Incident Size-Up – WITH QUESTIONS
We conducted a Risk Assessment – WITH QUESTIONS
We were then able to define the RESPONSE OBJECTIVES
We could then create an ACTION PLAN and detail TACTICS
And our prioritized action plan is based on the best-known information at this site and now
I MAY EVEN USE A LIST TO REMIND US OF WHAT WE SHOULD CONSIDER
Or, if we identify something we’ve missed or a new development occurs, before planning a response we use the same questions every time
Known? – Assumed? – Potential?
Will it happen? – Will it hurt?
Stop it from happening? – Stop it from hurting?
What? – How? – Who? – When?
The questions are always the same. It’s the answers that change with each incident
This is a simple application of a frontline IMS process There is nothing new here. No rocket science. No copyrights. It’s basic crisis and incident management that I have been learning, practicing and teaching in numerous forms for most of my life
If you believe that scenario 2 above is the preferred response protocol then you must let go of the checklist management team process.
EMPOWER your team
Simply create a list of QUESTIONS
Shackle your team to their checklists and you are creating a group. All with their own individual goal as pre-defined in a list that somebody else wrote a long time ago with no idea of what will be happening today.
That’s a bit like sending out a football team and each player takes his own ball and his own goal. Everybody is working hard but towards the WRONG GOALS
Do you have a Crisis Management TEAM or, are they GROUP?
EMPOWER your group to make decisions based on real-time potential risk and potential reward and create a TEAM with a common goal
It’s not as difficult as you may think
A brainstormed spreadsheet can work out just fine
We managed like that for years