Crisis management planning and training - and cool heads - pay off for Red Devils

June 23, 2015 by Mark Wenham

The dramatic events at Whitehaven Air Show on the evening of the 19th June involving the Parachute Regiment’s Red Devils Display Team could so easily have turned into an extremely serious incident were it not for meticulous crisis management planning and training.

Crisis management planning

From a crisis management perspective, the reaction and response from the Red Devils emphasises why all organisations and their people should plan and train for the worst case scenario.

Following the initial collision of the two parachutists and subsequent mid-air rescue seen by everyone at the airshow, the organisers were very quick to give an update and report that both parachutists were thankfully unhurt and to praise their “skill and cool thinking”.

That skill, cool thinking and calmness under pressure was due in no small part to the parachutists’ prior training for just such an eventuality – something that also requires planning.  As one of the two involved, Corporal Wayne Shorthouse said the next day; “With all the training we do during the winter season… it finally kicked in, and we got to use it this time.”


Scenario planning

This is a really powerful example of why identifying and preparing for your biggest risk will hopefully pay off in the event it happens for real.  Despite all the drama, and individual courage, these two did not panic, they knew what to do and followed the drills they had practiced before. These are exactly the behaviours that members of corporate crisis management teams need to demonstrate when operating under intense pressure.

The Red Devils and the Army also allowed both soldiers to give an interview the following day. As is so often the case, the best crisis spokesmen are not always the most senior people and in this case the right decision was taken to allow the two men involved to be interviewed.

Opportunity out of crisis

They both displayed complete professionalism, communicated well and were a tremendous advertisement for their regiment and the British Army, and so were able to grab the opportunity to maintain and strengthen the reputation of both organisations. It was a perfect example of creating an opportunity out of a crisis. In addition they were able to give a first-hand account of the events and were quick to explain that they had planned for and trained for such an eventuality.

This example has graphically demonstrated that not only does crisis management traininggo a long way to ensure a cool head when under extreme pressure, but also the importance of seizing opportunities when they arise. These are key principles for anyone involved in crisis management.

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