Emergency planning checklists

Use the PRIMER emergency planning framework checklists. Six critical stages make up the GCS PRIMER framework for crisis communications: Plan, Rehearse, Implement, Maintain, Evaluate and Recover.

On this page:

Helping your team to recover: a leader’s checklist

During times of crisis, communication professionals can often be the people that have worked the most hours, sacrificed the greatest amount of personal time and have effectively worked at the coal face to manage the crisis.

How you choose to acknowledge this will differ from crisis to crisis or depending on the characteristics of your team, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Remember to say thank you

It’s an obvious point, but one that can be lost in the rush to return to normal business. You may want to hold a team meeting where you publicly thank individuals or the whole team for their efforts, and it may also be appropriate to provide one-to-one feedback to those who have gone above and beyond.

2. Make sure you honour any overtime or leave entitlements

During a crisis, you often hear managers and team leaders encouraging people to work longer hours or weekends with the promise of lieu time or overtime payments, yet these offers can be forgotten in the aftermath. If you have promised lieu time or overtime payments make sure they are delivered.

3. Reflect outstanding performance in end-of-year reviews

In a similar way, make sure the work undertaken by team members is recorded in end-of-year appraisals and consider whether bonus schemes might be used to acknowledge those who made a particularly significant contribution.

4. Ensure the wider organisation acknowledges your team’s role

As well as your personal gratitude, it is worth encouraging senior figures within the organisation to thank teams. This might mean encouraging your Secretary of State or Chief Executive to speak to your teams or email their thanks: a small gesture that can make a big difference to morale.

5. Make use of the connections you have built with colleagues across your organisation

Crises often bring teams that usually interact on an ad hoc basis only together to work almost inseparably. Make use of these new connections, foster them and see how maintaining these closer working relationships may be able to help your team in the long run.

Assembling your crisis team: 5 questions to ask

Question 1: Does everyone understand the background to the incident or crisis?

Make sure you encourage everyone to share what is known about the situation. What does the media coverage, officials and any other sources of information reveal? Crucially, ask yourself the basic, but critical question: is this a crisis, and is it your crisis to manage – this will give you a clear sense of your organisation’s role in the response.

Question 2: What range of expertise and knowledge will you need to respond effectively?

Think about the skills and knowledge you will need to respond effectively to the situation you’re facing so that you start to understand the key people you will need to build your team around. Essential skills needed to respond and handle a crisis should be relevant to handling the initial crisis response, the duration and the aftermath. To deliver a coordinated response these skills must be mapped against the four I’s of the GCS Competency Framework: Insight, Ideas, Implementation and Impact.

Essential skills:

  • Reactive media queries (implementation)
  • Generating proactive media and digital handling (ideas)
  • Managing stakeholders (implementation)
  • Targeting key audiences (insight)
  • Evaluation and lessons learnt (impact)

Question 3: Who else beyond your organisation will have a stake in the response?

A crisis rarely involves a single organisation, so it’s vital that you understand who else will have a stake in the response and start finding ways of making this an integrated effort. This is where the time that you invested in planning and rehearsing can make a difference as it will mean you are likely to have established relationships and protocols with other organisations. If you haven’t, it is important that you work fast to make connections with key contacts and establish appropriate ways of working with them.

Question 4: Is everyone clear about who is leading what aspect of the response?

You are likely to be facing a complex, fast-moving situation, so be clear about who is responsible for what within your crisis team. Make sure everyone understands their own role, but also knows how their actions may affect others in the team – it is important that everyone recognises how they fit into the wider effort. Take the time now to set the direction for the team, so that there is consensus on what is expected of everyone involved.

Question 5: Have you got a reliable way of keeping track on progress across the team?

In a crisis situation, there can be a danger of losing control of the process as the pace of the response quickens. While it may not seem the most obvious thing to do upfront, it is worth establishing how everyone will share information and keep the team up to date on progress. The reporting should be proportionate so that it doesn’t detract from the vital job of delivery, but it is an important part of setting up an effective team response.

Rehearsal exercise

  1. Agree the scenario and the aim
  2. Assemble a planning team and agree the objectives for each test area
  3. Agree the exercise scenario and timelines
  4. Confirm participant availability, including media or voluntary agencies
  5. Scope and confirm the facilities needed e.g. transport, buildings and equipment
  6. Ensure that all communications to be used have been tested prior to the exercise
  7. Check that participants, umpires and directing staff have been briefed
  8. If the exercise links a number of activities or functions, test individually beforehand
  9. Ensure everyone is aware of the process if a real emergency occurs during the exercise
  10. For larger-scale simulations, ensure the safety of spectators and factor in marshalling and updates
  11. For the longer exercises, consider catering and amenities
  12. Ensure all parties are insured in case of an accident
  13. For larger-scale exercises, warn the local media, emergency services switchboards and any neighbours who might be concerned by the exercise
  14. After the exercise organise a ‘hot’ debrief with key players and circulate a date for a full debrief
  15. Evaluate the exercise and feed in lessons learned to the overall plan
  16. Agree recommendations and assign follow-up actions and timescales
  17. Share evaluation with participating organisations

Learning and applying lessons


IssueLesson identifiedActionOwnerBy what date

Further online resources on testing emergency plans