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Inside The Crisis Response Box

Crisis managers within the organization need fast access to information -- and a crisis is not the right time to be gathering it.

In an emergency situation, first responders need immediate access to keys, maps, and emergency contact lists. Crisis managers within the organization also need fast access to information -- and a crisis is not the right time to be gathering it. Responders cannot waste precious time to look for someone in charge, enter the facility, then search out maps and access materials such as combinations to locks, door keys, and cardkeys.

After the incidents in Mount Morris Township, Michigan; Littleton, Colorado; and Conyers, Georgia, school and law enforcement officials in dozens of states worked together to develop and publish guidelines for putting together a Crisis Response Box (CRB). But even as a recovery professional, I had never heard of a CRB until it was presented by detectives with the San Jose Police department at a recent meeting of the San Francisco chapter of InfraGard.

While the concept of a CRB initially was developed for schools, I think that it makes a lot of sense for every company to put one together.

What should go into a CRB? It really depends on the organization, but at a minimum it should contain:

  • Keys, cardkeys, and combinations that will open every door in the facility. For the fastest response time, you should use a master key system so that responders don't need to go through a chain of keys to get to the right one. Make up 3 sets on a brightly colored lanyard and if there are keys for specific areas that are not on a master key, make sure they are labeled.
  • Maps and floor plans of the facility on binder-sized paper. It should be easy for the responder to fold the paper once and put it into a trouser pocket. Blueprints are not acceptable for this purpose. Make up 10 copies. At a minimum, the maps should use color codes or symbols to show:
  • Hazardous areas such as battery backup rooms and locations where toxic chemicals are stored or used.
  • Shut offs for gas, water, electricity, telephone, alarm, sprinkler, and cable TV systems.(Responders may need to access or shut down communications, especially in a hostage situation.)
  • Elevators, stairs, and entrances.
  • Emergency point of contact lists including your designees who will be working with responders as part of the Incident Command Systems (ICS). This may include public information, corporate security, maintenance, IT recovery, etc. 3 sets with home, work, mobile, pager numbers, and photographs if possible. Note: Your organization's responders should have a unique easy-to-identify marking on their work badges so that emergency responders can identify them by sight.

Once you have the basic items in place, you can add to the box with other useful items such as:

  • Aerial photos and overhead maps. Google maps can be used for this purpose. Keep as many as 20 maps and laminate a handful of them for responders.
  • More detailed blueprint-sized floor maps and diagrams that can be used at a command site.
  • Telephone numbers sorted by location (retail store department, room or desk).
  • If you are in a large building, shopping center, or campus, you should pre-designate these locations:
    • Internal command post.
    • Staging area for law enforcement and emergency personnel.
    • Media staging area well away from the above staging area that can accommodate a large number of vehicles.
    • Family Center away from the first two staging areas where family members can pick up their loved ones.
  • Employee roster and point of contact phone numbers for employee and emergency contact. The roster should show a supervisor for every employee. If an employee cannot be located, a supervisor should know whether they were on or off shift and their assigned area. Photographs of key personnel will make their identification easier in a crisis. Photographs of all personnel will make it easier to point out an employee if they are the source of the crisis.
  • Utility, fire alarm, and sprinkler shut off procedures. At the Columbine incident, the sprinklers were triggered and no one knew how to turn them off. Hallways quickly filled with water making it difficult to escape. In some places, water got dangerously close to electrical equipment. The emergency responder might be the only person who can safely gain access to the shut off point.

I'm sure that after having read this list that you can think of a number of other items that should be in the box. If you do, I hope that you will share them in the comments section below.