The golden hour of crisis management: how to make use of this window of opportunity

By Martin Alderton

During 15 years spent providing psychological support after more than 450 incidents across the world I’ve learnt that the basics of high quality Incident Management aren’t complicated. They can be broken down into Preparation, Response and Review.

Of course preparation is paramount and should include:

  • a risk assessment
  • a carefully written Plan
  • properly trained staff

During the Response to an incident you should make the emotional and physical well-being of the people affected (and their families) your first concern. And, regardless of whether you suffer any incidents, you should regularly Review your Preparation and your Plan.

The Golden Hour

A crucial part of your Plan will be the first actions taken after receiving news of an incident. These are your Golden Hour Actions.

Imagine the end a traumatic incident. Perhaps a vehicle has crashed but now the emergency services are on the scene. Perhaps an armed robbery at a workplace has left victims traumatised but physically unharmed. Or a fire; or terrorism; or a natural disaster. There are so many possibilities.

From the moment the victims are no longer in jeopardy a window in time opens. This is a window of opportunity often known as the Golden Hour. It provides an opportunity for organisations to show prompt and proactive care and concern to maximum effect.

If the people affected by the incident start to receive a caring and helpful response before the Golden Hour expires it will help to prevent the anger, bitterness and resentment which are often a serious problem after incidents.

A wise organisation will anticipate the need to show care and concern very promptly after any incident affecting people who might look to it for a helpful and caring response. Indeed, it would be prudent to include some Golden Hour Actions in its Plan, such as:

  • based on your knowledge of those affected consider what message you think they want to hear now from your organisation e.g. what we are doing or are going to do for them
  • decide how to communicate your message to the people affected without further delay

Thankfully the Golden Hour usually lasts longer than an hour. But if the window of opportunity it presents closes before the correct response has begun the goodwill between your organisation and the people affected will start to leak away. That goodwill can never be entirely recovered.

Find out more

This article draws on the knowledge base from ISOC courses on crisis communication and media relations.