In January this year, I wrote a blog about the Corona Virus, and how ‘Context is king’. You can read it here: https://cyberfortgroup.com/blog/coronavirus-facts-and-planning/
The blog post talks about offering context to the problem and called for proportionality, which means that our response should be appropriate to the threat we are facing.
Our World Today
As someone who has studied how people respond in a crisis, it has been truly fascinating to watch the following three main groups and how they have responded;
1) General Public
(For this blog I’ll focus on the General Public, and return to the Media and Government(s) response in a later post.)
The Survival Arc
Firstly allow me to explain something in relation to crisis and disasters, which is generally known as the survival arc. No matter what the situation is, you will move through this ‘arc’…
First, you will deny it’s happening at all. Secondly, you’ll look around you for validation to see how other people are reacting, and finally, you make a decision to do something. The faster you move through these three elements, the more likely you’ll come through unscathed.
If you think I’m wrong, consider what happens when an (unplanned) fire alarm goes off.
Over the recent months, I watched how the general public have sat (largely) within the ‘Denial’ phase of this arc. Many still are there. Phrases like “It can’t be that bad.” Or “What are THEY not telling us?” is a great form of distraction and psychologically a very comfortable place to be.
This is because it allows us to slowly, and naturally move to the next phase; Deliberation.
Over recent weeks we’ve seen reports of people panic buying things like dried pasta, and toilet roll. Why toilet roll? Because it’s non-perishable and it’s a prominent thing in stores (so it MUST be important), and in a crisis=panic (which is where we are now), these things become important.
What we are starting to see now however are people making decisions. Decisions to stop travelling. Decisions to stop shaking hands. Decisions to stop going to work and self-quarantine.
General Public = Workforce
What we must remember is that the general public work in our organisations. They run our schools, our hospitals, our local stores. They drive our buses, fly our planes, they bring goods to our doors, and they run our companies.
The global economy has already been hit quite severely by this crisis (and yes, it is currently a crisis. Not a disaster. We are in ‘Crisis-Mode’, as we are experiencing a ‘Crisis-Panic’). Flybe has gone into administration and cited COVID-19 as the catalyst for its demise. Other travel companies are suffering as a result, and major events (sporting and music) are predicting losses due to smaller numbers of attendees or cancellations.
We are in Crisis. But we should NOT Panic
While the mass media portrays a land of confusion, I am seeing glimpses of hope and proportionality in everyday life.
Individuals and businesses are taking prudent measures to minimise the risk to them and their families and to continue to do business as before. This is not ‘Business As Usual’ (BAU), but rather ‘Business As Always’.
Cyberfort does Business As Always
I can’t speak for other companies and what they’ve been doing, but a great example of this is my own company, Cyberfort. Late last year when it became evident that COVID-19 wasn’t going away any time soon, we looked at our Pandemic plans that had been drafted previously (for Avian flu, swine flu and SARs) and assessed them for suitability.
Our primary concern was for staff welfare and assessment on the impact on them, and their loved ones. This is because without our team in place, it would become increasingly challenging to support our clients.
It was at this time we brought together our Crisis Management Team (CMT) to discuss what measures we should take, when we should take them and how we would communicate this.
This all happened in December 2019. We did not panic. We prepared.
Communication plans were drawn up, and systems were tested (to ensure we could support clients remotely).
We did not panic. We prepared, and we waited.
Cyberfort does not deliberate
Come February (and March) 2020 and the Media is understandably full of stories of people who are concerned about the spread of the virus. Countries have whole regions affected and in ‘lockdown’. I’m pleased to say this is not the case within the UK, and the Governments response seems to be proportional (even if the Media’s reaction is not).
Due to the escalating situation, we took the decision to communicate from the earliest part of February about the growing risks and offered practical advice and guidance to our teams and our clients.
We maintained our plans and communication plans so that everyone had a clear understanding of what actions we were taking, and what steps we would take should things continue to escalate.
Cyberfort takes decisions
No one knows what will happen next, but one thing is for sure; Cyberfort has clear plans on how to ensure we can support our teams and our clients. We will continue to communicate and utilise the technology we have, to keep our teams safe and help them through this current Crisis.
Will there be lessons to learn? Yes, absolutely.
Will we do things differently next time? Possibly. One thing is for sure; We will continue to focus on keeping our teams safe and ensure we move through the survival arc as quickly as possible.
We can do this without causing panic or alarm because we will do it with proportionality in mind.
Cyberfort’s response to this Crisis is (I hope) not unique. I would hope that other organisations have been equally diligent in developing their Contingency plans. The time for denial is over, and there’s no reason to deliberate further.
What is needed now is decisive action.
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