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Our Crisis Action Plan Overview

This is a pre-recorded seminar video you can use at your organization to introduce the concept of Crisis Action Planning and to be a prelude to your staff viewing/reviewing the organization’s Crisis Action Plan document. This seminar should be held before people have a chance to read the plan and definitely before any exercises are held.

Barton Dunant can also make a customized version of this overview document to your specific organization and location, for US$1,000.00. Contact us directly at [email protected] if that is something you need.

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Every organization needs a Crisis Action Plan. What to do, where to go and what happens next – regardless of the crisis, emergency or disaster which may occur. When building your Crisis Action Plan (or Emergency Action Plan), we recommend it be made as part of an overall set of emergency plans, which also include Crisis Communications and Continuity of Operations Plans.


We also recommend following a construct called POETE – Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training and Exercising. First you need to get the buy-in of your leadership team to build and adopt/adhere to a Crisis Action Plan. This will undoubtedly involve Human Resources, Legal and other compliance oversight and approval. There are also U.S. Federal Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) requirements and federal laws related to workplace safety, which most organizations must adhere to – and they include the need for a written Crisis Action Plan (aka Emergency Action Plan) for organizations with 10 or more employees.

We have a free checklist of what needs to comes next. And if you want, you can use our Crisis Action Plan template for free, too. We offer this extensive plan template at no cost on purpose – we really want every organization to have a Crisis Action Plan for their staff and visitors to their site(s). Get our Crisis Action Plan Template by clicking on the “Free Download” button below:

You can also find a free sample of a quick, concise two-page emergency action plan summary, from the U.S. state of Wisconsin’s capital complex here.


  1. Your organization will need to build (and train) a Crisis Communications Team
  2. Same for an Emergency Response Team
  3. You will need to identify who is the main Point of Contact (POC) for your Information Technology Team
  4. And the same for any facilities/logistics teams – even if it is outside vendor (building maintenance, contractor)
  5. Alert System Name, if your organization uses one – and who activates/uses it.

Our Crisis Action Plan template above, covers all these teams and organizational constructs.


The general workforce needs no equipment to participate in Crisis Action Plans, but they do need to know where to go (for example if evacuating to an emergency assembly area or sheltering-in-place in a safer room); and there is some training associated with tools which may be needed for a Lockdown. Emergency Action and Crisis Communications Teams both have equipment needs, and those will be identified in their own respective plan documents.


We can build custom videos for you to introduce Crisis Action Plan training elements to your organization. Here’s a sample:

Once the Crisis Action Plan is approved and distributed, we recommend a stair-stepped approach to training both the general workforce members and the members of the Emergency Response and Crisis Communications Teams (as well as any other specialized teams established in your organization).

  • Start with an online pre-recorded introduction seminar. One they can view at their own pace and time schedule. If you have a learning management system which can document that they have completed viewing of this video, add it to that system, as you would ethics and computer safety training.
  • Your Emergency Action Team and Crisis Communications Team will need workshops for what they need to do, and then
  • Everyone can (and should) participate in Drills and Exercises.
  • Evaluate the training through exercises and other feedback methods (post-course evaluations, etc.) and revise the whole POETE process, as needed.


Exercise Types

We mentioned two of the discussion-based exercises above (seminars and workshops). There are also tabletop exercises which can be done and then games (such as online quick microsimulations), drills and functional & full-scale exercises. Each of these types of exercises should be built upon the lower level first. We do not recommend jumping into a full-scale exercise with other groups, such as first responders, on any subject/hazard, until you and your own teams have practiced that same subject/hazard on your own via this stair-stepped approach. You should also evaluate the results of all exercises to see where the plans, organization, equipment and training needs to be revised and/or redone. Practice makes perfect, as they say. Barton Dunant has a ton of exercises for your team. Take a look at our catalog or let us know directly if you would like us to build or remotely facilitate an exercise for your organization.

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Crisis Action Plan template

Barton Dunant’s Crisis Action Plan template (also known as an Emergency Action Plan) is designed for any organization to build a basic Crisis Action Plan for the “before, during and after” of any type of disaster (all hazards):

  • Natural / Human-Made Disasters (both notice and no-notice incidents)
  • Product and Process Disasters
  • Fictitious Disasters

This template is generic for all organizations – and covers three major actions that everyone needs to be ready for: Evacuations, Sheltering-in-Place, and Lockdowns (Active Assailants onsite). Barton Dunant is offering this Crisis Action Plan template for free. We want as many organizations – big or small, for-profit or non-profit, etc. to have a Crisis Action Plan. If your organization has one now, use this to compare and possibly enhance your own plan. If you are not a decision-maker for your organization, but feel you need a better plan – get a copy and work through it with your team.

The Crisis Action Plan is part of a larger series of emergency plans, which also include Crisis Communications and Continuity of Operations, and follows the design construct of POETE: Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training and Exercising.

This is the place to start – to make everyone safer in the work environment. This plan is in RFT format, and can be opened in MS-WORD or other word processors – and is ready to be customized to your own specific needs and situation.

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Crisis Action Plan – Checklist

Use this checklist to organize the elements you need to develop your own Crisis Action Plan for your team, division, or even entire organization. There are specific sections of the plan which are unique to each physical location (for example where to evacuate to, outside of the building itself) and there are other elements which need to be consistent for all staff and visitors. At the end of this post, you can find a free download offer of our Crisis Action Plan template document.

  1. Name of Organization
  2. Number of facilities needing Crisis Action Plans (CAPs)
  3. Address(es) of Facility/Facilities (for Google Maps or other visual map to add to CAP)
  4. Specifics about what the organization does, products produced, etc. What are the essential missions of the organization (which have to be performed regardless of disaster occurring), if any
  5. Point-of-Contact (POC) info for Crisis Communications Team members
  6. POC info for Emergency Response Team
  7. POC info for Information Technology Team lead
  8. POC info for Facilities/Logistics team lead – even if outside vendor, like a property management company
  9. Alert System Name (if any)
  10. References to Human Resources (HR) policy numbers which are applicable to workforce safety and security (you do not need the full copies, just summary info)
  11. References to your organization’s Business/Government Continuity of Operations Plan
  12. Memorandums of Agreement/Understandings with any outside partners and suppliers, including off-site assembly points and warm/cold continency operations sites (Highlights only).
  13. Executive POC who signs off on document and also who ultimately approves this CAP.
  14. Detailed procedures on Lockdowns, Active Assailants and other Shelter-in-Place protocols
  15. Any other threats/hazards for this organization which may be unique to the organization, and should be specifically listed in the Crisis Action plan

If you are ready to start building your organization’s Crisis Action Plan, you can use our template for free!

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[Ad] Crisis Communications Team Table Top Exercise – Rats!! (A Fictitious Disaster)

Barton Dunant’s Crisis Communications Team Table Top Exercise (TTX) Toolkit Bundle includes the SitMan and Participant Feedback Form in Adobe Acrobat and the Presentation Slides in PowerPoint. This is an “off-the-shelf” table top exercise designed to walk through the  analysis of any organization’s Crisis Communications Team Plan for the “before, during and after” of a Fictitious Disaster event (Rats!! At the Olympia Diner). As noted, the SitMan and Participant Feedback Form are in Adobe Acrobat, which maintains the formatting, fonts, etc. – and can be printed or electronically sent to participants and also projected on larger screens or via virtual webinars (WebEx, Zoom, Teams, etc.). The Slideshow is in PowerPoint and uses Arial and Gil Sans MT fonts.

If you need help running this exercise remotely, please let us know. We have different levels of consulting services to either assist you in designing exercises, all the way through running them (and evaluating them) remotely.

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Building your Crisis Communications Team Plan

Here’s one way to build your Organization’s Crisis Communications Team Plan (and also start your Crisis Communications Plan itself – to boot!):

  1. Get your organization’s management team to buy-in and support this concept first. There will be costs to developing and maintaining both the team and the communications messages themselves. Make sure to include risk management and legal council.
  2. Organize the preliminary members of your Crisis Communications Team – they will be your initial design team for the Crisis Communications Team Plan and also the Crisis Communications Plan. The first is a broader plan covering the “before, during and after” all types of incidents. The second is the specific messaging templates, checklists/steps, protocols, etc. used by the Crisis Communications Team during the actual Crisis Response for your Organization. You will find that the Crisis Communications Plan can somewhat build itself, especially when you have already designd the Team plan and worked through a number of exercises.
  3. Have your team run through our course Everyone Needs a Crisis Communications Team. You can have them do this individually or as a group – or both. Either way – figure out where you want the “practice” material to be stored (We have a Workshop repository – the comments section below! – where you can share your example work and see the work of other organization’s students). These workshop units have sections where the team members (and you) can develop sample communications templates, team organization charts, training lists, etc. – If you feel this information is proprietary and/or confidential, tell your team where to store these working examples. You may want to establish a cloud-based repository (like an MS-Teams Group, or Dropbox folder) where this “Real Life” information can be stored and shared only within your team. And here’s a tool which will help with both “real-world” crisis communications via social media posting (for both governmental organizations and non-governmental ones), as well as exercises, too.
  4. Build your Crisis Communications Team Plan through the course and also the subset Crisis Communications Plan. These could be annexes (add-ons) to a more general Emergency Action Plan (also called a Crisis Action Plan):
Both the Crisis Communications Plan and the Crisis Communications Team Plan are part of overall Emergency Management Planning for any Organization. Barton Dunant can help design, test and evaluate these plans for your Organization.

5. Exercise your Crisis Communications Team Plan, evaluate the exercise results and modify the plan accordingly. Then Exercise again (both repetitively to “fix” what was “broken” and in a more complex manner to find out what you might have missed). See our Blog on something called “the pink slice” – what you do not know you do not know. We have a few exercises that can help. See our Crisis Communications Team TTX – Winter Storm, Crisis Communications Team Table Top Exercise – Tornado, and Crisis Communications Team Table Top Exercise – Rats!! (A Fictitious Disaster) exercises.

Barton Dunant has both Discussion-based and Operations-based exercise templates, and also provides remote facilitation and evaluation of exercises on a consultant-fee basis.

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Crisis Communications Team Advanced Functional Exercise

This is a Functional Exercise (FNX) designed to provide a stressful scenario that requires several key crisis communications outputs (talking points for executives, questions for emergency management officials for situational awareness and resource support needs, social media posts, press releases, etc.) – and in this exercise things will go from bad to worst very quickly.

The purpose of this exercise is to provide opportunities for your organization’s Crisis Communications Team to work together collaboratively and cooperatively evaluating and disseminating crisis action information pertaining to the incident – both in their roles to support continued organizational operations - and to serve the public during this exercise incident.

This two-hour exercise tests the capabilities and plans for crisis communicators which would be put into action if the organization’s prime office facility (i.e., main office building) was struck by a small aircraft. During the FNX, the simulated situation will worsen – in real time – as part of the exercise scenario.

This ExPlan can be purchased as a template on its own, or as part of a full (remote) facilitated exercise package.

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Crisis Communications Team FNX ExPlan

Crisis Communications Team Functional Exercise (FNX) Exercise Plan (ExPlan). This free download includes the PDF copy of the ExPlan only. Additional modules such as PowerPoint Slides, After-Action Review/Improvement Plan template, etc. can be downloaded separately – or your organization can have Barton Dunant remotely facilitate this exercise as well (this option includes all documents, plus one Facilitator/Controller/Evaluator over the web, for a single session of this FNX – learn more here). 

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Product/Process Incidents

One of the three major categories of incident types. The other two being Natural/Human-made and Fictitious.

This also aligns with a conversation about the definition of a threat versus a hazard. We view threats as the “thing” causing the potential adverse impact (the “hazard”). So a series of days of heavy rainfall generates flash flooding, which makes your street flooded where you can’t get in or out of your home. Hurricanes can generate flash flooding and so can dam breeches. The incident occurs when people are adversely impacted by the hazard (or hazards), generated from the threat (or threats).

Product/Process Incidents – which by the way, we are using the term ‘incidents’, when others may say disasters, catastrophies, crises, emergencies, etc.

Someday we hope there will be clearer definitions for the severity of the incident to delineate between an emergency and a catastrophe – and also elimination of the phrase “natural disaster“.


These are those incidents which are generally self-contained within your organization or maybe involves your supply chain with third-party vendors. Bottom line, is that the rest of the public is not (yet!) impacted in the same way as you are – but these incidents can also be the start of something worse – they can cascade into other types of incidents or magnify/amplify other incidents out there.

Examples of Product/Process Incidents

A recall of a product is certainly a Product/Process incident for the company. In many cases, it may be manageable and not have a significant impact on revenue, goodwill, staffing, etc. of that company. Recalls and other Product/Process incident can have life safety impacts, such as food recalls, which require crisis communications and other emergency management actions by the firm, partners, governments, etc.

Product Tampering may be a Product/Process incident: if it occurs within the production or processing of the product. On the other hand, post-production (i.e. retail sales points and other sites) product tampering is a human-made incident (and a criminal one, too). The 1982 Tylenol murders were initially thought to be a Product/Process incident, then turned out to be external product tampering, and eventually led to massive Product/Process changes for the pharmaceutical industry.

Even governments themselves have processes which can be suspect, thwarted, error-prone, delayed, manipulated, etc. and become Product/Process incidents. The U.S. Election process comes to mind, especially presidential elections. Emergency Management principles (such as life safety concerns being paramount, incident stabilization, and property/asset protection) should be utilized by governments to preserve their election integrity.

A Product/Process Incident can originate from and generate other incidents

Everything is connected somewhere and some how. We mentioned supply chain issues as being a possible catalyst for your organization’s Product/Process incident. This can be everything from a traffic jam to a potential work stoppage at a major carrier to a worldwide pandemic. Your Product/Process incident can be one of the dominoes tipped over by someone else’s incident of any kind (think cyber-attack at a major U.S. pipeline) or even worse, a Natural Threat causes a Product/Process incident at your organization, which causes a Human-Made incident in the rest of the nation.

What to do about Product/Process Incidents

The key to Product/Process Incidents is to defend against them the same way you would any other threat or hazard. By taking an All-Hazards, All-Threats approach to Product/Process incidents the same way as you would for Natural/Human-Made and Fictitious Incidents, your emergency management team (i.e. crisis team, risk management team, etc.) will have the ‘muscle memory’ of following the same pathways and checklists for all threats and hazard types. Yes, the “response” is very different for a recall than it is for a tornado, but reframing management’s priorities, along with their crisis communications to the public and their own workforce is what Emergency Management is all about. Shifting from revenue generation or other mandates, to ones where life safety is now the guiding priority (sometimes at the cost of lost revenue, lost prestige, etc.) is also what Emergency Management is all about.

[Ad] Barton Dunant can help any organization view Product-Process Incidents in a holistic way, along with the other incdent, threat, and hazard types. We help organizations build crisis action plans, which cover all of the workforce actions needed on an all-hazards, all-threats basis.


Kalaitzandonakes, M., Ellison, B., & Coppess, J. (2023). Coping with the 2022 infant formula shortage. Preventive medicine reports32, 102123.

Severin, P. N., & Jacobson, P. A. (2020). Types of Disasters. Nursing Management of Pediatric Disaster, 85–197.

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Active Assailant Attacks: Lockdown

Lockdown!, Lockdown!, Lockdown!

Three words you never want to hear in a row – but ones you need to plan for well in advance. We believe the phase “Lockdown” should be a universal call to action – which has different actions, depending on where you are and where the threat is. Similar to a fire or chemical spill within (or near) a commercial high-rise office building, there may be some places where it is safer to shelter-in-place and some where it is safer to evacuate. But unlike those and any other threats – there may be a moment/place/time when you are confronted directly by the active assailant – with “no where to run and no where to hide” (apologies to Holland, Dozier and Holland) – and you will have to fight to defend your own life and maybe the lives of others.

A Lockdown should be different from a Lockout. A Lockout is when the Active Assailant is near your location, but not (yet!) a direct threat to you. When a building or a school goes on Lockout, it should mean that the threat is not on campus and no one goes in and no one comes out (except as authorized by emergency services). Lockouts can become Lockdowns, when the threat does move to your building. This may happen very quickly – and if it does, try to get the words “Lockdown, Lockdown, Lockdown” out over public address systems, text messages targeted to people in the building, etc. Also any info which can help identify the attacker(s); the more intelligence provided, the better – such has what the attacker(s) look like, weapons, which entrance they came in, etc. We encourage the three calls of the word “Lockdown!” back to back, this way it is very distinctive, and in case someone missed hearing the word “Lockdown” the first time. And by the way, there is no reason not to keep announcing where the threat is – only if you are in a safe place to do so. Offsite security/law enforcement teams who have access to your public address system and/or text alert system can perform this as well. Note, we do recommend that cell phones be put on silent when you are temporarily ‘hiding’ or denying access, in a safer location – and those folks should remain quiet to avoid directing the attacker to their location.

Think of this threat, like it’s radioactive. If you heard there was a briefcase full of radioactive material in the lobby of your building, you would want to get as far away from it, as quickly as possible. So, for two of the three actions (evacuation and sheltering in place) associated with a Lockdown, look to limit your time near the threat, increase the distance from the threat, and use shielding from the threat:

Run/Avoid – Add Time and Distance from the Threat

This is shorthand for evacuate away from the threat to a safer area until the situation is ended; and let your team or emergency responders know of your location and status. That includes a very important checklist point to “running/avoiding” away from an Active Assailant (or any other threat where you are evacuating): Accountability. Please let your supervisor, or emergency action team leader know where you are and your status (injured, not injured, etc.) when you have moved to someplace safer.

emergency assembly area sign

If your office, school, work location, etc. has emergency assembly areas – use them when you are evacuating – even for Active Assailant Attacks. At least that’s the plan. If you escape out the back of the building towards the Assembly Point, and see there are other attackers there – well, then go somewhere else! That may mean back into the building. Every Emergency Action Plan should have multiple emergency assembly areas/points – including contingency ones if the primary ones are unsafe. This is a key element to Crisis Action Planning.

Hide/Deny – Add a layer of Shielding, until you can Escape or the Threat is Ended

Also shorthand for finding a safer place to be, one that provides Cover at best and Concealment at a minimum.


This is the tough one. Not something we recommend for people under 18 (K12 schools probably use a different protective methodology for Response by the public to an active assailant attack, such as A.L.I.C.E.). Here’s a really good video from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which sums up “Run, Hide, Fight” (Note: some may find this video disturbing or uncomfortable, watch at your own discretion and liability):

What comes next: More elements of Response and Recovery

Police may still be searching the building, injured and wounded people need to be triaged, treated and possibly transported to hospitals. Investigations needs to start.
There may be a friends and family reception center for people to meet up with people who evacuated from the scene. Media will be on-scene. And More.

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