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Drowning Out The Noise – How Regional FIRST Coalitions Are Streamlining Situational Awareness Efforts

At RPCfirst, we often hear from leaders just like you who are diligently overseeing their financial institutions business continuity programs. Without exception, these plans are built around the mitigations of risks and the assessment of impacts to the operational integrity of the organization in the event of a crisis. The challenge for even the most savvy business continuity planner/risk manager is not so much knowing “how” to mitigate as it is knowing when and what to expect should an event occur or even as it is occuring. In other words, situational awareness is paramount to your response and recovery efforts.

Why is it so complicated to have clear insight into an event as it is occuring?  In any given situation, a financial industry risk/resiliency leader may be receiving hundreds of different reports from news channels (online, TV, radio), alerts from multiple regional emergency operations centers (city, county, region) and even, responding to social media type reports coming directly/indirectly from those observing the situation firsthand.  Having a “source of authority” for obtaining regional threat intelligence has become the number one challenge for today’s leaders due to the sheer volume of communications channels!   So how do we make sense of all the noise generated during an event? .

Our FIRST (Fostering Industry Resilience and Security Through Teamwork) coalitions have developed a blueprint for drowning out the noise and creating a collaborative environment where steady state and crisis communications becomes relevant and actionable. Let’s take a look at the FIRST approach:)

  1. REGIONAL FOCUS – Each “FIRST” coalition is deliberately aligned to meet the needs of a specific region. Although  financial institutions may face many of the same risks/threats  (cyber, robbery, market swings) they can be equally challenged by regional level threats that come simply from being within the same geographic region. For instance, we’ve all heard the term “tornado alley” to describe the area in the southern plains of the central United States that consistently experiences a high frequency of tornadoes each year.  California as a region is known for its high risk level for earthquakes, droughts and wildfires. The Mid-Atlantic region is home to the Nations Capital and has unique regional threats as a result. By forming FIRST coalitions with the needs of a specific region in mind, the threat and risk analysis becomes much more actionable and meaningful to the members of that coalition.
  2. PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP –  You’ve probably watched the news and had the experience of seeing the “after incident” relationships that often develop between the public (emergency management sector) and organizations and/or people as a result of a traumatic event. Bonds are created and trust is established and from that, organizations often become more resilient and feel more prepared to face the unknown because they have an “in” with the source of authority for crisis communications. The FIRST coalitions recognize the power of these partnerships and focus on developing them.  However, there are two key differences:
    • Coalition leaders work to develop these relationships PRIOR to an event. This one is probably obvious – but during a “hurricane” is not the time to be passing around business cards!
    • The partnerships are developed so that there is a mutual benefit for each party. Bi-directional communication can strengthen the response during an event and lead to a quicker recovery. In some regional coalitions, the financial sector coalition partner may even help to “stand up” a local emergency operations center and provide much needed operational support.
  3. FUNNEL APPROACH – And lastly – about that “noise” …let’s look at it this way. If you cell, landline, email and snail mail all happened to “arrive/alert” at the same time, how would you know which one to respond to first?   Having too many sources of information flowing into your command center of your organization is very similar and can dramatically slow down your response and recovery efforts. Because the “FIRST” coalition leaders work ahead of the event (steady state), they have the opportunity to develop prioritization of alerts that enable their members to align resources more effectively. Many of our “FIRST” coalitions have adopted a TLP (traffic light protocol) mechanism while others use terms such as “Alert”, “Action”, or “Information” to ensure their communications are received with the level of criticality necessary.

There are approximately 15 coalitions currently active nationwide that have dedicated time and effort to building out these public/private partnerships in advance. Many have been “tested” with quick response to events such as Hurricane Matthew and the more recent floods in the California region. All of the FIRST coalitions have a common goal – to be available to their communities during times of crisis. Eliminating the noise is a great first step!

Fore more information on how to join or start a FIRST Coalition in your region, reach out today!

 

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